Small children pick up a lot of bad habits, and while these can be annoying for parents, most of them aren’t anything you’d need to confer with an orthodontist over. There are some habits, however, that can compromise the appearance and function of a child’s smile. Recognizing these bad habits that can affect your child’s teeth is important. These quirks can result in tooth decay, misalignments, and other oral issues, and may affect how children eat, speak, or even sleep. Some children may experience difficulty functioning well at home or school.
Since bad oral habits have the potential to disrupt a child’s life in many ways, it’s important to address them as soon as possible. But how do you know which habits are a problem? What can be done about it if you do identify an issue? Sometimes educating parents and patients is all that’s needed, along with minor behavior modification. Occasionally, more complex cases may require dental or orthodontic work to correct the problem. That’s where we come in!
Like many things in life, prevention is often the best course of action! Being proactive instead of reactive can save you and your child years of time, money, and effort. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the bad habits that can affect your child’s smile, and how we can help you get things under control! Keep reading to learn more.
Thumb, finger, and lip sucking
We see many children who suck their thumb or fingers; in fact, this is a very common habit in childhood. Although most common in the infant and toddler years, this habit can persist throughout childhood and into adulthood. If it’s allowed to continue over a long enough period of time, thumb and finger sucking can cause problems like:
- open bite of the front teeth
- flared upper incisors
- tipping of the lower incisors
- misalignment of the future permanent teeth
- deformities of the roof of the mouth
Any of these issues can be mild or serious, depending on the severity of the habit and the way a child positions the thumb or finger in their mouth. Without treatment, the cosmetic appearance of the teeth may suffer and damage could occur beneath the gums as well.
Lip sucking is a similar habit, but not as common as thumb or finger sucking. While it usually results in nothing more than chapped or inflamed lips, a serious lip sucking habit could cause the upper front teeth to flare out or the lower front teeth to tilt towards the tongue. Eventually, these teeth may lose the ability to touch when the mouth is closed.
Chewing on various objects
Many people crunch ice or nibble on their fingernails when they’re bored or need a distraction. Kids are no exception! Chewing on objects like ice, pens and pencils, fingernails, or other items isn’t unusual, but this habit can be destructive. For example, a child who bites their nails may experience chipped enamel, cracked teeth, or irritation of the soft tissue inside the teeth. This particular habit also happens to give bacteria on a child’s hands an easy access point into their mouth. In this time of COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to curb any habits that increase the risk of infection!
If you have an older child who is prone to chewing on things or biting their nails, you can offer sugarless gum to help them focus on something less damaging. Younger children that can’t be trusted with gum may respond well to a healthy snack that has a satisfying crunch, like carrots, celery, or apple slices. As a bonus, these types of food are also great for a child’s teeth and overall oral health.
Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is fairly common and can be frustrating for the person experiencing it as well as anyone who has to hear it! Most children and preteens will outgrow it eventually, but it can cause problems while it continues. An example of this can be found in the way the grinding action wears down the enamel of the teeth, which can damage the tooth, disrupt sleep, and cause other physical symptoms like headaches, earaches, and jaw pain. There are many possible causes for bruxism, but it’s frequently seen in children with bite and alignment issues. Correcting these malocclusions with orthodontic treatment can make a world of difference!
Find peace of mind with early orthodontic evaluations
As a parent, you should be working with your child to develop good oral habits, like brushing effectively, flossing regularly, and eating a healthy variety of nutritious food. Identifying and addressing bad habits is also important! One way you can accomplish this is by scheduling an early orthodontic evaluation for your child. The American Association of Orthodontists actually recommends all children see an orthodontist by the time they’re 7 years old! By this age, a child’s mouth has developed enough that their bite can be assessed, as well as the front-to-back and side-to-side relationships.
Some parents worry that this will lead to orthodontic treatment immediately, but this is rarely the case. In fact, we recommend immediate orthodontic treatment for only a small fraction of the younger patients we see in our Cambridge, Pine City, and Lindstrom offices! Even so, these early evaluations are valuable, as they allow us to monitor a child’s oral development as they grow. This means we can catch any potential issues that may lead to more serious problems, whether now or in the future. Beginning treatment at the most opportune time gives children the best chance at a lifetime of healthy smiles!
Help your child beat bad oral habits with Embrace Orthodontics
Board-certified and experienced orthodontists like Dr. Sievers and Dr. Van Vooren have years of experience correcting misaligned teeth and other dental issues, but identifying underlying bad habits is an important part of any diagnosis.
When you schedule a complimentary evaluation for your child in our Cambridge, Pine City, or Lindstrom office, one of our doctors will examine their mouth and discuss any concerns you have. We’ll also go over their medical and dental history. The customized treatment plan they build for your child will take into account any destructive oral habits and include ways to correct or eliminate them.
If you have a child who needs a little help breaking a bad oral habit, get in touch with us today and schedule a FREE consultation at one of our three convenient locations!