Most parents consider a little pickiness a natural phase of growing up, and most children manage to eat a wide enough variety of foods to avoid nutritional deficiencies. However, pickiness that excludes entire food groups, refusal to eat normal amounts or anything at all, and the consumption of non-food materials can threaten your child's growth and development. Aside from scheduling appointments with a pediatrician, you should also see a pediatric dentist since childhood eating issues are often tied to the following four causes.
Children experiencing pain due to untreated cavities and tooth decay often refuse to eat even their favorite foods or have trouble eating more than a few bites at any time. Treating the tooth with a filling, root canal, or even extraction allows your child to eat without pain again. Waiting too long to diagnose a dental decay problem can leave a child underweight and with multiple nutritional deficiencies. The dental treatment required is also easier, quicker, and less expensive when decay is treated early.
Young children who are growing in their first set of teeth may also develop swallowing or chewing disorders. A dentist can diagnose these problems even in very young patients just by watching the child try to chew or drink while they're in the office. Swallowing issues often require a set of complementary treatments from different specialists, including oral or facial surgery, retraining therapy to develop the right swallowing reflexes, and training for the parents to continue the child's care at home.
Eating non-food materials and objects, such as paper, dirt, and leaves, is a psychological condition known as PICA. While it requires treatment from a child psychologist and therapist, you should also take your child to a pediatric dentist as soon as you notice this behavior. Many objects can damage the teeth permanently, and the dentist can assess what's already happened and make a plan to help you avoid further damage to their teeth. Even if you only witness your child eating softer materials like leaves or paper, they may be eating harder materials in secret.
Finally, older children who don't seem to be eating regularly should also see a dentist. The dentist can check for subtle signs of anorexia and bulimia that first appear in the teeth and gums. If they let you know that they've found signs of an eating disorder, you can talk with your child and arrange for therapy sessions to address the root causes.
For more information, contact local professionals like those found at Neu Family Dental Center.