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Asthma And Your Child's Teeth: Advice For Parents

Experts estimate that around 25 million people in the United States suffer with asthma, and the disease commonly affects children. Long-term prescription medicine and lifestyle changes can help your child keep the disease under control, but asthma can also affect other aspects of your son or daughter's health. Find out how your child's asthma could affect his or her dental health, and learn more about the steps you can take to help protect his or her teeth and gums.

The link between asthma medication and dental health

You may not instinctively think there is a link between your child's asthma and his or her dental health, but studies show that children with the disease are at higher risk of tooth decay and gum disease than other kids. Predominantly, this issue occurs because of the side effects that can arise from the medications children use to control asthma.

A study of 105 asthmatic children showed a significant increase in tooth decay when kids used an inhaler to control their asthma. One type of inhaler (salbutamol) showed the highest rate of decay, but other types of medication also led to an increase in dental health problems. Excess medication left on the teeth after inhalation can cause enamel damage and tooth erosion.

Asthma inhalers can cause other problems, too. Over time, inhalation of medication in this way can aggravate the roof of your son or daughter's mouth, causing a red lesion. These lesions are susceptible to infection, and the problem can eventually spread to the throat and other parts of the child's mouth.

Other dental problems that asthma can cause

Children with asthma also have a tendency to breathe through their mouths. Mouth breathing often helps the child take deeper breaths and is an understandable response when your son or daughter suffers an asthma attack.

Unfortunately, constant mouth breathing makes it harder for the mouth to produce enough saliva. Over time, reduced saliva flow can cause dry mouth, which can lead to bad breath, gum disease and tooth decay. Saliva also helps control harmful bacteria. As such, children with dry mouths are often more susceptible to candidiasis or thrush

Oral health becomes a bigger issue for children with asthma who suffer from dental anxiety. A simple trip to the dentist can cause anxiety that ultimately results in a severe asthma attack. Without these crucial regular appointments, you may miss the early signs of a problem with tooth decay, which means your son or daughter won't get the necessary treatment.

Preventive measures

For children with asthma, a good brushing and flossing regime is vital, but these kids should also take more precautions to avoid dental health problems.

Don't tell your children to brush their teeth every time they use an inhaler. Not only is this difficult if your child uses an inhaler several times a day, but as the asthma medication can soften the tooth enamel, any brushing could actually worsen the problem of tooth erosion.

Instead, you should encourage your child to rinse his or her mouth with water after he or she uses an inhaler. This will encourage saliva production and will get rid of any traces of the medication left in the child's mouth.

You can also buy special products from a pharmacist that can help combat dry mouth. These gels and sprays are easy to apply and will stimulate saliva production on an ongoing basis. Talk to your dentist before you use these products, and follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully.

Working with your child's dentist

It's important that your family dentist knows that your child has asthma. He or she should also know about the medications your son or daughter uses, in case the drugs can cause a problem. For example, the steroids that a doctor sometimes prescribes can affect a child's adrenal glands. In turn, your child may find it harder to cope with the stress of a dental appointment. What's more, these drugs can also increase the risk of an infection.

Your dentist can also help your son or daughter cope with any dental anxiety. Dentists with experience of working with patients like this will take time to relax the patient and explain exactly what is happening. Experienced dentists will also know how to quickly respond to any signs that the child is becoming anxious.

Asthma affects millions of American children, and this common breathing disorder can also cause issues for your child's dental health. Talk to a dentist, like those at Eden Prairie Dental Care,  for more information and advice about how you can help protect your child's teeth.