If you take your child to the dentist every 6 months for regular cleaning and checkup appointments, then most issues — like cavities and gum disease — will be caught by the dentist before they get too serious and start causing any worrisome symptoms. However, there are exceptions. Sometimes problems pop up suddenly, so it is important to be aware of the common signs your child needs to see a dentist.
1. Holding their mouth a lot.
If you see your child holding their jaw or mouth a lot, this is usually a sign of mouth pain. They could have anything from a deep cavity to an infected tooth root, so it's a good idea to have a dentist take a look. Do not assume that everything is okay just because nothing looks amiss when you peer inside their mouth. Many of the issues that can cause jaw pain, including infected teeth, are not apparent from the surface and need to be diagnosed via x-rays.
2. Avoiding hot or cold foods.
Have you noticed that your child is no longer interested in drinking hot or cold beverages, or that they are only eating once their food has cooled completely? Depending on their age, maybe they've even told you that it hurts to eat hot or cold things. Tooth sensitivity to hot and cold can be an indicator of a cavity, gum disease, or weak enamel, and it is definitely a reason to take your child to the dentist. In the meantime, serve them room-temperature foods and reassure them that this will pass.
3. Moving their jaw from side to side a lot.
When your child is just sitting quietly, do you often see them shifting their jaw? It may look like they are moving their tongue from side to side, or pushing their tongue against certain parts of their mouth. This could just be a silly habit, but it could also be a way of dealing with jaw or tooth pain. Some kids even have jaw pain because their teeth are not properly aligned. It's a good idea to see a dentist, who may recommend following up with an orthodontist in this case. Often, braces are necessary to align the teeth and thwart this type of jaw pain.
Dental problems rarely go away on their own, so if you think your child may be suffering from dental pain of any sort, make plans to see a dentist for diagnosis and treatment.