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Dental Issues in Children with Health Conditions

Published under Dental Information

Children can develop dental problems as a result of a preexisting health condition or from treatments, therapies or medicines. If your child has special health concerns, it may affect the following:

  • How teeth and oral structures form
  • How the calcium is positioned in the tooth’s enamel as the teeth grow
  • How much saliva your child makes
  • How often and what your child can eat (soft foods and liquids don’t give teeth, gums and muscles the stimulation they need

Common dental concerns in children with special health needs include:

  • GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease) – GERD can cause your child’s mouth to become acidic, which wears won the teeth. A dentist can prescribe different pastes to prevent the teeth from acid damage.
  • Food pouching – Sometimes children hold food in their mouth or cheeks much longer than usual, which creates a place for cavity-causing bacteria to grow.
  • Grinding (bruxism) – Your child might grind or gnash their teeth while sleeping or throughout the day. Over time, grinding damages teeth. It’s a common problem and most children outgrow the habit, but treatment is available if it becomes a problem.
  • Bad breath – Digestive problems, chronic sinusitis, diabetes and certain medications can cause bad breath.
  • Dry mouth – This often results from your child’s medical condition or from a medication. It can affect nutrition and lead to tooth decay, gum disease and mouth infections. Check with your dentist and child’s doctor for treatment ideas.
  • Delayed tooth grow – Children with Down syndrome often have delayed first teeth.

The effects of medicine on teeth and gums

Liquid syrups and sugary medicines can cause cavities, while others can cause dry mouth and reduce saliva. These medications include antihistamines, antidepressants, anti-GERD medicine, sedatives and barbiturates. There are also seizure medicines that can cause enlarged gums, which will then lead to bleeding. Reduce medicines’ impact by rinsing or spraying your child’s mouth out with water after each dose.