There are few things a parent loves more than seeing their child smile. Even the odd flaw is something to get sentimental about, but what happens when those little imperfections affect more than school pictures? Many common dental issues can interfere with everyday tasks like eating, sleeping, and speaking. They can even play a role in how well a child functions at home and school! Continue reading to learn about recognizing bad habits that will affect your child’s teeth.
There are numerous factors that must be taken into consideration when it comes to problems with a child’s teeth, one of the most common causes of poor oral health is bad habits like thumb sucking, teeth grinding, and more. These destructive habits are very common in babies, toddlers, and young children, though teens and adults can struggle with some of them, too. If they’re left unaddressed, they can cause cosmetic and structural damage to the teeth and jaws.
Educating children and parents on the importance of breaking bad dental habits and minor behavior modification is a good place to start, but treatment from an experienced dentist may sometimes be necessary to correct these issues. Here at Children’s Dental Center, our top goal is to help your child’s smile succeed. Let’s take a closer look at some of the worst habits for oral health and how we can help you tackle them!
Thumb and finger sucking
Thumb and finger sucking is probably the most common oral habit we see in our office. Many kids will eventually outgrow it, usually by the time they start school, but it can persist for a longer period of time. If this happens, it can lead to a range of issues. These may include:
- open bite of the front teeth
- flared upper incisors
- tipping of the lower incisors
- misalignment of the permanent teeth once they emerge
- deformities of the roof of the mouth
These problems can range from mild to complex, depending on the severity of the habit and the way the child positions the thumb or finger in their mouth. Their teeth may suffer both cosmetically and under the surface of the gums if the habit isn’t broken or the issues are left untreated.
Lip sucking isn’t as common as thumb or finger sucking and usually results in nothing more than chapped or inflamed lips. However, it can cause the upper front teeth to flare out or the lower front teeth to tilt towards the tongue if a child develops a more serious habit. Over a long enough period of time, these teeth may lose the ability to touch when the mouth is closed.
Chewing on ice and other hard objects
Many children develop the bad habit of chewing on ice, pens, their fingernails, or other objects. They can be trickier to deal with since they’re often subconscious due to boredom or distraction, but it’s important to address them since they can chip away at the enamel, crack the teeth, and irritate the soft tissue inside a tooth.
Besides chipping and cracking, the bacteria that thrive under our fingernails are given an easy access point into the mouth when a child bites their nails. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided us with an additional daily reminder to keep our hands away from our face and mouth to help prevent infection!
If your child is prone to chewing on things or biting their nails, there are several things you can try to help them break the habit. Offer sugarless gum or candy to an older child to keep their mouth busy. Younger children may respond well to a healthy snack with a satisfying crunch, such as carrots, celery, or apple slices. Bonus: these foods are great for their teeth and oral health, too!
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a fairly common habit in children and pre-teens. Research has shown that most children will eventually outgrow it, but bruxism can still cause some problems for kids while it continues.
The constant clenching action can wear down the enamel of a child’s teeth and disrupt their sleep, but that’s not all—some clinical studies have demonstrated a possible link between teeth grinding and anxiety, stress, and depression in those who suffer from it. Children who have experienced prolonged teeth grinding may also suffer from headaches, earaches, and jaw pain.
We can help minimize these symptoms by treating any obvious underlying causes of teeth grinding and being proactive with other forms of treatment, such as prescribing a special night guard made specifically for your child’s teeth. This will help treat any damage already present as well as preventing any further damage.
Set your child’s smile up for success with Children’s Dental Center
An experienced dental team like ours can identify bad oral habits, help children overcome them, and correct any damage caused by them. We provide the highest quality personalized care for every patient and will be happy to help you find a way to eliminate any destructive dental habit your child may have! If you’re in Germantown or the Mid-South area and have a child who may need a little help breaking a bad habit, get in touch with us today and schedule an appointment.