picture day dental exam

Tips to Help Your Child Have the Healthiest Smile on School Picture Day

School picture day is right around the corner and that means a new picture of your child growing up. It’s also a great opportunity to help them put their best face forward by scheduling a teeth cleaning! Teeth cleanings are about more than getting the perfect school photo. They’re also a great opportunity to see how their teeth are developing! 

We’ll look at some of the most common childhood dental problems:

  • Cavities
  • Gum disease
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Teeth grinding

Common childhood dental problems can sneak up on your child. Regular teeth cleanings can help you beat them to the punch before they ruin next year’s photo!


Cavities are easily one of the most common chronic dental problems for American children. Also known as tooth decay or dental caries, they can lead to severe pain and even infection if left untreated. Your child can also experience difficulty:

  • Speaking 
  • Eating
  • Playing

Tooth decay can also have a significant negative impact on their education. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC):

• 1 of 5 children aged 5 to 11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.¹

• 1 of 7 adolescents aged 12 to 19 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.¹

• Children aged 5 to 19 years from low-income families are twice as likely (25%) to have cavities, compared to children from higher-income households (11%).¹

– Center for Disease Control

Fortunately, cavities can be easily prevented. Dentists can apply special fluoride varnish and dental sealants to your child’s baby teeth. The varnish can prevent about 33% of cavities while the sealant can prevent back teeth from 80% of cavities. Those with fluoridated tap water also experience fewer cavities than those without it, as well as those who use fluoride toothpaste.

Gum Disease

Gum disease, also known as gingivitis, is a common oral health issue among children. Common symptoms of gum disease are gums that are:

  • Swollen
  • Red
  • Recessed
  • Prone to bleeding

If left untreated, gum disease can develop into more advanced stages with more severe consequences. This can be especially dangerous for teenagers who are experiencing increases in hormone production.

Hormones such as progesterone and estrogen are responsible for higher blood flow in the gums. This can lead to a rise in gum sensitivity and irritation which, ironically, can seem like gum disease. However, it can actually lead to poor dental hygiene that eventually results in gum disease.

It’s important that you keep an eye on your child during this period, as well as throughout early childhood. Like cavities, childhood gum disease can easily be avoided. All you need to do is develop good dental hygiene habits. 

This includes making sure your child:

  • Brushes at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Flosses at least once a day
  • Receives cleanings from the dentist every six months

Monitoring your child’s dental hygiene is essential to ensuring a lifetime of good oral health. By keeping an eye on their brushing, flossing, and cleaning, you won’t just help them have a good picture day. You’ll help them get over the hump of adolescent gum sensitivity and stay on the path of good dental hygiene!

Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive gums aren’t the only sensitivity problem your child is facing. Tooth sensitivity is usually a sensitivity to hot or cold food and liquids, but it can also become so severe that they can become sensitive to hot or cold air.  

We often associate sensitive teeth with older people, but they can also be a problem for kids. Like adults, childhood teeth sensitivity is the result of enamel erosion from acid and plaque. The problem for kids is that their enamel is thinner than adults and is more easily eroded. 

Enamel erosion causes a child’s gums to recede, which can lead to cracks forming on the tooth’s surface. This causes nerve endings to become exposed, which are agitated by consuming hot or cold food, liquids, and air. Sensitive teeth can also be a sign of other underlying dental issues such as cavities or tooth decay. 

On the bright side, there are steps you and your dentist can take to fight or even prevent your child’s teeth sensitivity. You can start by giving your child a soft-bristled toothbrush to use. Many people brush too hard or use bristles that are too hard, which erodes their enamel. Your dentist can help by applying a sealant to their teeth to fill in any cracks that may have formed.

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding is a common problem for a lot of school-aged children. Also known as bruxism, it’s estimated that between 15 and 33% of children grind or clench their teeth. This can happen for a couple of different reasons. It’s often the result of a child’s top teeth not being aligned with their bottom teeth. It can also be a reaction to pain, stress, or hyperactive behavior.

It’s common for children to grind their teeth when their baby teeth and adult teeth come in. However, persistent grinding outside of these events can become a cause for concern since it can result in worn-down teeth, headaches, and jaw pain. You’ll want to talk to your dentist if you notice their teeth looking worn down or if they complain about tooth sensitivity.

Other steps you can take to limit your child grinding their teeth are to:

  • Help your child destress before bed
  • Make sure they drink plenty of water (dehydration has been linked to bruxism)
  • Relax muscles with massage and stress exercises

Teeth grinding is often harmless among young children. With that said, it can point to other issues in older ones and may require watching over time. Talk with your dental care team about what you can be doing and may need to in the future to protect your child’s teeth.

Wrapping Up

School picture day is a great reminder to schedule your child’s next dental checkup. It’s also an opportunity to talk to your dentist about any problems they may be having and what can be done to address them. Dental problems like cavities, gum disease, sensitive teeth, and teeth grinding aren’t the worst things that can happen to their oral health. However, they can have both short- and long-term effects on their oral health and should be addressed immediately.

Athens Family Dental is open Monday through Thursday to help with all your dental needs. Call us today at (423) 745-3559, or you can schedule an appointment online.

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