It’s not uncommon for young children to pick up bad oral habits as they grow up, but thankfully most of them are relatively harmless or broken as your child grows up. They’re certainly not something you’d need to consult with an orthodontist about! There are some oral habits, however, that can negatively affect the way a child’s smile looks, feels, and functions. If left untreated, they can result in tooth decay and misalignments, along with other oral issues that could impact the way your child eats, speaks, and even sleeps! In turn, they may have a hard time functioning well when they’re at home or school. When it comes to recognizing bad habits that can affect your child’s teeth, our team is here to help.
Here at Whitewater Orthodontics, we want your child’s smile to succeed in every way! We’ve seen how certain oral habits have the potential to disrupt a child’s life, which is why it’s important to address them early. But how can you determine which of these habits are an issue and what can be done about them? Our expert team is here to help! Let’s take a look at the bad habits we see most often in our Tacoma, Lacey, and Yelm offices and discuss how we can help you get things back under control. Keep reading to learn more!
Thumb and finger sucking
This is one of the most common childhood habits we see here at Whitewater Orthodontics. Thumb and finger sucking happens most frequently in the infant and toddler years, but it can persist throughout childhood and even adulthood. If it’s left untreated over a long enough period of time, thumb and finger sucking can cause oral issues 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 the above issues can range from mild to serious, depending on the severity of the habit and the way a child positions the thumb or finger in their mouth. Without treatment, the appearance of the teeth may suffer and damage could occur beneath the gums as well.
Lip sucking is a similar habit, although it’s not quite as common as thumb or finger sucking. While it usually results in nothing more than chapped or inflamed lips, a serious habit could cause the upper front teeth to flare out or the lower front teeth to tilt towards the tongue. Eventually, these teeth may no longer touch when the mouth is closed.
Chewing on objects
Many of us find ourselves crunching ice or chewing on our fingernails when we’re bored or in need of a distraction. Kids are no different! It’s not unusual to chew on objects like ice, pens, and other items, but this habit has the potential to 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 gives bacteria on a child’s hands easy entry into their mouth. Now more than ever, it’s important to curb any habits that can increase the risk of infection.
For older children who are prone to chewing on things or biting their nails, sugarless gum can be a great tool to help them focus on something less damaging. Younger children that can’t yet have gum may respond well to a healthy snack that has a satisfying crunch, like carrots, celery, or apple slices (which are also good for their oral health!)
Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is relatively common, especially in younger children. Most kids and preteens outgrow it eventually, but it can cause problems if it continues. Over time, 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 from Whitewater Orthodontics can be really beneficial!
Get an expert opinion with an early orthodontic evaluation
At Whitewater Orthodontics, we encourage parents to help their children develop good oral habits, like brushing and flossing effectively and regularly. But it’s also important to identify and address bad habits!
One way you can do this is by scheduling an early orthodontic evaluation, something the American Association of Orthodontists and Dr. Leavitt recommend for all children by the time they’re 7 years old. By this age, a child’s mouth has developed enough that their bite can be assessed by an experienced orthodontist, along with the front-to-back and side-to-side relationships.
Some parents worry that this will lead to orthodontic treatment right away, but we only recommend treatment for a small percentage of the younger patients we see in our Tacoma, Lacey, and Yelm offices. That said, these early evaluations are still very valuable, as they allow us to monitor a child’s oral development as they grow so we can catch any potential issues that could lead to more serious problems down the line. Beginning treatment at the most opportune time gives children the best chance at a lifetime of healthy smiles!
Address bad oral habits with help from Whitewater Orthodontics
Our Whitewater Orthodontics team has many years of experience creating beautiful, healthy smiles for children and teens throughout our communities. Dr. Andrew Leavitt has been trained in correcting misaligned teeth and other dental issues, and he can successfully identify any underlying bad habits and advise parents on how to deal with them.
When you schedule a free consultation for your child at one of our three conveniently located offices, Dr. Leavitt will examine their mouth and discuss any concerns you have. He will also go over their medical and dental history. The customized treatment plan he builds for your child will also include any destructive oral habits the child has and include ways to correct or eliminate them.
If your child needs some help breaking a bad oral habit, or you want to get a head start on helping them smile confidently for a lifetime, get in touch with us today and schedule a FREE consultation with one of our three convenient locations! We’ll help them take the first steps toward a healthier, happier smile.