A guide to tooth trauma, thumbsucking, and baby teeth.
Q “My 3 year old suffered a traumatic injury to his tooth and his gum has been red and irritated for a long time. Will this affect his gum permanently or the growth of his adult teeth?” Marla S.
A. Trauma to the front baby teeth is unfortunately common in toddlers. When the trauma occurs the tooth can either be knocked right out or pushed up into the gums.
If your child has a dental injury make sure you see a dentist right away. Sometimes no treatment is required; other times, the tooth may need to be pulled or other treatments done to save the tooth.
If the tooth is knocked out, the gums will take a week or two to heal. The mouth heals quickly. If the redness continues or if your child is complaining of pain for more than a week, contact your dentist to see if the area has become infected.
Usually losing a baby front tooth early will not affect the development of the permanent tooth. Sometimes the eruption of the permanent tooth can be a little delayed, but this is usually not a problem. If the baby tooth was pushed up into the gums, it can “bump” into the developing permanent tooth leaving a white mark. This can be dealt with when your child is older if it is an aesthetic problem.
Q. “Is thumbsucking a problem when adult teeth come in? Is it ever a problem for teeth? Jane C.
A. Sucking is a natural urge for babies and infants. Sucking on thumbs, fingers, or pacifiers helps to relax and comfort your infant and helps her fall asleep. The sucking action actually helps with natural facial growth and development.
Most children stop their sucking habit on their own by 3-5 years of age. If the child continues to suck her thumb after the permanent teeth start to come in, typically between 5-7 years, it can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth, alignment of the teeth or even cause changes to the roof of the mouth or jaw.
Helpful tips around thumbsucking:
• Don’t worry, most kids stop on their own.
• Don’t let your child know that this is an issue for you. It will become a battle of wills.
• A “good rule of thumb!” is to give your child praise when you notice he is not sucking.
• Offer distractions to keep her hands busy, such as playing with a ball or puppets, drawing or colouring, or learning a musical instrument.
• If you or your dentist believe teeth damage is occurring, work with your older child to develop a strategy for stopping.
• Use a bandage to cover the thumb or hand as a reminder, especially if the sucking occurs during the night.
If your concerns continue, consult your dentist.