The 2016 Global Burden of Disease Study estimated that diseases of the mouth affected 50 percent of the world’s population (around 3.58 billion people). Going by assessments, the most prevalent condition was dental caries (aka tooth decay) in permanent teeth. Teenage children and toddlers are the demographic with the highest risk of harboring life-threatening illnesses.
Oral diseases are the most common noncommunicable diseases (NCD) and impact people from infancy through adulthood. The outcome is constant pain, discomfort, disfigurement, and even death.
Dental illness never comes with fun and influences the quality of life that children experience. But, dental disease, for the most part, is easy to prevent or contain if it happens. Many parents understand they should help their kids brush twice a day, floss daily, eat properly, and schedule regular dental check-ups. Knowing all you can about dental problems can be of help in prevention. It is vital to be sure of your child's teeth health while they sleep.
This article highlights dental diseases in children that are highly lethal, yet challenging to detect.
Dental Illness and Diagnosis
Most dental pain is due to an organic problem such as dental caries, periodontitis, trauma, or pulpitis. Dental care during pregnancy may require some special attentnion, but for the most part, diagnosing these symptoms is mostly straightforward. Yet, children often present abnormal dental pain from a non-dental source. Unusual pain like this can be categorized on the cause. If it becomes difficult to diagnose dental illness, the following categories are potential alternate causes that you may consider:
- referred pain
- neuromodulatory pain
- neuropathic pain
Causes of Dental Diseases
The oral cavity is a hotbed of microbes. For some of the bacteria, they are in their natural habitat as normal flora. In small quantities, they are mostly harmless. However, a sugar-high diet creates an environment for acid-producing bacteria to flourish. The acid dissolves the tooth enamel, causing dental cavities.
Gum-line bacteria thrive in the sticky plaque matrix. Plaque accumulates and hardens before migrating down the length of your tooth if not removed through regular flossing and brushing. This can inflame the gums, causing gingivitis.
Increased inflammation makes your gums to detach from your teeth. This creates pockets that may eventually act as a receptacle for pus. This stage is called periodontitis. Some factors lead to periodontitis and gingivitis. These are:
- poor brushing habits
- frequent consumption of sugary foods and beverages
- use of medications that reduce the amount of saliva in the mouth
- infections such as HIV
- hormonal changes in women
- acid reflux
- acid-induced vomiting
Diagnosing Dental Illnesses
A routine dental examination can reveal multiple dental illnesses. The doctor will painstakingly inspect your child's teeth, mouth, teeth, throat, tongue, cheeks, neck, and jaw. He might scrape at the tooth using special implements to make a correct diagnosis.
Cavities/Tooth Decay or Dental Caries
Tooth decay is damage to the surface of a tooth, which can lead to cavities.
You may not notice dental caries until it really gets bad. Sensitivity and toothache are what dentists use to detect tooth decay. It is a significant healthcare challenge in teenage children. Integrating oral health screening into non-dental primary care practice is promising for access to preventative dental care for vulnerable populations. Such integration requires easy, fast, and accurate early caries detection tools.
Dental Pain Due to Pulpitis
Commonly called toothache, this is a pain in the teeth or its accompanying supporting structures. What makes dental pain lethal in children is that there are many possible causes. Pulpitis is one common cause of toothache. It is pulp inflammation, often in response to dental trauma, tooth decay, and several other factors like dentin hypersensitivity.
Pulpitis is reversible when the pain is mild to moderate. It lasts for only a short period after a stimulus, such as a cold. It is irreversible when the pain is spontaneous and severe, continuing a long while after a stimulus.
Pulpitis in a child can become irreversible when it's not treated. It then develops into pulp necrosis in which the pulp dies. It also leads to periapical periodontitis.
Toothache can also result from non-dental conditions. These include angina pectoris and maxillary sinusitis, affecting the lower and upper back teeth, respectively.
Because of the multiplicity of possible causes, the correct diagnosis of toothache in a child can be a challenge. You need to create a culture of proper oral hygiene to help your kids avoid cavities and pain. You should know the exact cause of toothache before trying to treat it. Treatment may include filling, root canal treatment, extraction, pus drainage, and so forth.
A dental abscess is a collection of pus local to a tooth. A bacterial infection in the soft (usually dead) pulp of the tooth is often the cause of a periapical abscess.
A failed root canal treatment can also give rise to a similar abscess.
An acute abscess can show no pain yet have a swelling on the gum. Parents should have their child checked immediately by a professional if they notice these signs. However, abscesses are often marked by extreme, throbbing pain.
It can be quite tricky to distinguish abscesses during diagnosis. They sometimes occur together in children. Considering that management regimes differ for both types of abscesses, it is critical to make this distinction.
If the swelling is over the area of the root apex, it is likely a periapical abscess. But, it is more likely a periodontal abscess if it is closer to the gingival margin. In the same way, pus in a periodontal abscess most probably secreted via the periodontal pocket, while the periapical abscess drains mostly through a parulis near the apex of the tooth in question.
A dental radiograph is not of much use in the early stages of dental abscess. Later though, it can reveal the position of the abscess and thus indicate an endodontic or periodontal cause. Where a sinus is present, a gutta-percha point may be inserted before the X-ray to see if it helps point to the origin of infection.
Successful treatment of a dental abscess focuses on reducing and eliminating the causative organisms. Antibiotics and drainage are often part of the treatment.
An untreated dental abscess can grow large enough to perforate the child's bone. It can turn to osteomyelitis and cellulitis by extending into soft tissue. Infection can then spread internally or externally, depending on which offers lower resistance.
Septicemia, brain abscess, or meningitis can occur if you do not treat your teenager's dental abscess.
Dental illness can have more lethal consequences than many others. But, most dental illnesses can be treated. However, proper diagnosis is essential to create an effective treatment plan because dental disease can have both dental and non-dental causes.
That said, oral hygiene is essential to help children avoid dental illness or at least limit their impact on a child's health and lively nature.