If you’ve ever been around children, you know how easy it is for them to pick up bad habits. While most of these tend to be relatively harmless—or maybe a little annoying at worst!—certain oral habits can have a negative impact on a child’s oral health. We’re here to help you with recognizing bad habits that can affect your child’s teeth! If these destructive habits are allowed to continue indefinitely, they can affect the way a child’s smile looks and feels, and may result in a range of dental issues. These may include:
- tooth decay
- misaligned teeth and jaws
- difficulty eating
- interrupted sleep
- speech problems
Here at Texas Family Orthodontics, we treat many young patients and we’ve seen firsthand how harmful these bad oral habits can be. Since we’re in the business of creating healthy smiles, we want to do what we can to help parents prevent these problems! By identifying and addressing these habits as soon as possible, the potential for damage is reduced. With that goal in mind, let’s look at the worst habits we see in our practice and discuss how to get them under control for a stronger smile! Keep reading below to learn more.
Thumb and finger sucking
Thumb and finger sucking are most common in early childhood, but they can sometimes persist into adolescence and even adulthood. If it’s allowed to continue over a long enough period of time, this habit can cause problems like:
- open bite of the front teeth
- flared upper front teeth
- tipping back of the lower front teeth
- misalignment of the future permanent teeth
- deformities of the roof of the mouth
These symptoms can range from mild to serious, depending on how severe the habit is and how a child positions the thumb or finger in their mouth. Without treatment, the cosmetic appearance of the teeth may eventually suffer. Damage may occur beneath the gums as well.
Crunching on ice or chewing on objects
There are plenty of kids who like to crunch on leftover ice or chew on their fingernails when they’re nervous or bored. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s harmless! Eating ice and chewing on random objects can cause damage to both the teeth and gums, such as chipped enamel, cracked teeth, or irritation of the soft tissue inside the mouth.
Nail-biting in particular can transfer bacteria from a child’s hands to their mouth, something we’ve all learned to avoid in the last year or two! If the last eighteen months have taught us anything, it’s that we should do our best to curb any practices that can increase the risk of infection, and nail-biting certainly fits the bill.
If you have an older child who is prone to chewing on things or biting their nails, you can try offering sugarless gum to help them focus on something less destructive. Children that are too young for gum may respond well to a healthy snack that has a satisfying crunch, like carrots, celery, or apple slices ( all of which also happen to be good for their oral health!)
Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is fairly common, especially in younger children. Although most kids outgrow this habit by their teens, it can still cause problems while it continues. The grinding action wears down the enamel of the teeth, which can damage the tooth and also disrupt sleep. There can be other physical symptoms involved, including headaches, earaches, and jaw pain. While there are many possible causes for bruxism, it’s often seen in children with bite and alignment issues. In these cases, orthodontic treatment can be incredibly beneficial!
How early orthodontic evaluations with Dr. Vo can help
As a parent, it’s important to instill good dental hygiene habits in your children to help them maintain a healthy smile. That means the obvious stuff like regular brushing and flossing, but it also means knowing how to identify and address bad oral habits!
One easy way to do this is by scheduling an early orthodontic evaluation with Dr. Vo, which is something the American Association of Orthodontists recommends for all children around age 7. By this age, a child’s mouth will have grown enough that she’ll be able to assess their bite and get a look at how the front-to-back and side-to-side relationships are developing.
Some parents are concerned that an early evaluation will lead to orthodontic treatment immediately, but we tend to recommend this for only a small percentage of our young patients. These early evaluations are still valuable, though, as they give us the chance to monitor a child’s oral development as they grow. This means we’ll be able to catch any potential issues before they become more serious, providing children with the best chance at a lifetime of healthy smiles!
Give bad oral habits the boot with support from Texas Family Orthodontics
Dr. Vo and the rest of our expert team have years of experience providing San Antonio and Windcrest families with beautifully aligned smiles. Dr. Vo has been trained to not only correct misaligned teeth and other dental issues, but also identify any underlying bad habits that are present. If she spots one that is causing problems for your child, she’ll be able to advise you on the best course of action going forward.
When you schedule a free consultation for your child with us, Dr. Vo will perform a thorough examination of their mouth. She’ll also look over their medical and dental history, and listen to any concerns you may have about their dental development. If a customized treatment plan is necessary, it will take into account any destructive oral habits they have and include her suggestions for eliminating them.
Does your child need help breaking free from a bad oral habit? Get in touch with us today and schedule a FREE consultation with Dr. Vo to take the first step towards a healthier, happier smile!