As a parent, we know you love to see your child smile! Every child has a unique smile, with its quirks and charm. However, when issues such as crowded teeth or misalignments are left untreated, they can interfere with a child’s ability to eat, sleep, speak, and function well at home and school. Orthodontic treatment can be the solution for many of the dental problems children experience, but what causes them to occur in the first place? Recognizing bad habits that affect your child’s teeth is the first step to preparing them for a lifetime of smiles!
While many factors contribute to a child’s oral health, some of the most common causes of misaligned teeth are bad habits like thumb sucking, extended bottle use, and other similar issues. Destructive habits like these are common among babies, toddlers, and young children, but adults can struggle with some of them as well.
These bad habits can result in cosmetic and structural damage to the teeth and jaws, so it’s important to address them as early as possible! This can be as simple as patient education and minor behavior modification, but in some cases, dental and orthodontic work may be necessary as well.
Here at Decatur Orthodontics, we want to see your child achieve a healthy smile that will last a lifetime. Let’s take a closer look at recognizing bad habits that affect your child’s teeth and how you can address them with our help! Keep reading below to learn more.
Early orthodontic evaluations
Developing good oral habits in your children is critical and stopping bad habits is just as important! This is one reason the American Association of Orthodontists recommends all children see an orthodontist by the time they’re seven years old. Some parents are surprised by this suggestion since most kids that age still have developing mouths and a large number of baby teeth left, but the back bite is already established. That means our orthodontist, Dr. Francis, can evaluate the side-to-side and front-to-back tooth relationships and assess the child’s bite.
An orthodontic evaluation doesn’t always lead to orthodontic treatment, however. We typically only recommend immediate orthodontic treatment for a small fraction of the younger patients we see. However, early evaluations are still important! That’s because they allow us to monitor your child’s oral development as they grow and catch any issues that may cause problems, either now or in the future. When given the chance to begin treatment at the most opportune time, our team can help your child’s smile grow correctly. This gives them the best chance for a lifetime of healthy smiles!
Thumb and finger sucking
Thumb and finger sucking are probably the most common oral habits we see in young children. While most kids tend to outgrow this by the time they start school, it can lead to oral issues if it persists. Some of these include:
- 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
These problems can vary in intensity, depending on the severity of your child’s habit and the position of the thumb or finger in the mouth. If left untreated, your child’s teeth may suffer, not only cosmetically, but below the surface of their smile as well.
Although not as common as thumb or finger sucking, lip sucking can also be an issue for some children. This commonly results in chapped or inflamed lips, but a more serious habit can cause the upper front teeth to flare out or the lower front teeth to tilt towards the tongue. Over a long enough timeframe, these teeth may lose the ability to touch when the mouth is closed.
Anyone who’s ever experienced a child grinding their teeth at night will tell you how irritating all that crunching and squeaking can be! But teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a pretty common habit, especially in children and pre-teens. While research has shown that most children eventually outgrow grinding their teeth, it can still cause some problems while it persists.
For example, the grinding action can wear down the enamel of your child’s teeth and disrupt their sleep. Some clinical studies have even demonstrated a possible link between bruxism 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. There are several possible causes for this bad habit, but teeth grinding is particularly common in children dealing with bite and alignment issues in their upper or lower jaw. Correcting these malocclusions with orthodontic treatment can help!
Chewing on objects
Children and adults can both develop the bad habit of chewing on objects like ice, pens, and pencils, or fingernails. Many of these habits begin subconsciously due to boredom or distraction, but they can chip away at the enamel, crack the teeth, and irritate the soft tissue inside a tooth.
In addition to the risk of cracking and chipping your teeth, nail-biting gives the bacteria that thrive under your fingernails an easy access point into your mouth. The COVID-19 pandemic serves as 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, try using sugarless gum to break the habit! Younger children may respond well to a healthy snack with a satisfying crunch, like carrots, celery, or apple slices. These foods are also great for teeth and oral health!
Break bad habits and gain a healthier smile with Decatur Orthodontics
Recognizing bad habits that affect your child’s teeth is the first step to help to break them! Dr. Francis and his team want to help you every step of the way. When you schedule your child’s initial consultation at our Decatur office, we’ll create a treatment plan completely customized to their unique needs. We can even help determine the best methods for breaking harmful oral habits!
If you’re ready to take the first step in giving your child a lifetime of smiles, contact our team today and schedule your FREE consultation.