Although kids are prone to picking up bad habits every once in a while, most of them are pretty harmless. As frustrating as they can be for parents, they don’t tend to require the attention of an orthodontist or other specialist. However, some oral habits can actually affect the way a child’s mouth looks, feels, or functions. If these habits aren’t identified or addressed, they can lead to a variety of oral issues and may even impact how a child eats, speaks, or sleeps. Recognizing bad habits that can affect your child’s teeth is the first step in the orthodontic treatment process. These habits can have consequences outside of their smile, such as difficulty performing well at school or acting out at home. It turns out there’s a lot more connected to a child’s oral health than you might think!
Here at Kottemann Orthodontics, we’ve seen our fair share of young patients suffering from the effects of a destructive oral habit. It’s important to address these habits as soon as possible, but many parents aren’t sure how to determine which ones are harmful and which are harmless. That’s where we come in! We’ll outline the bad habits we see most often below and discuss how our expert team can help you tackle them in your own child. Keep reading to learn more about identifying and addressing damaging oral habits that can affect your child’s smile!
Thumb and finger sucking
This is probably the most common childhood habit we encounter in our practice. Thumb and finger sucking is seen most frequently in the infant and toddler years, but it can sometimes persist well into childhood. There are even some adults who still struggle with this habit! When it’s allowed to continue for an extended period of time, thumb and finger sucking can cause oral issues, including:
- 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
Depending on the severity of the habit and how a child positions the thumb or finger in their mouth, these problems can be quite serious. Without treatment, damage can occur both cosmetically and beneath the surface of the teeth as well.
Lip sucking is a similar habit, but it’s not as common as thumb or finger sucking. Normally this results in nothing more than chapped or inflamed lips, but a more 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 lose the ability to touch when the mouth is closed.
Chewing on various objects
Many of us like to crunch on the ice in our cup or chew our nails when we’re bored or in need of distraction. Kids are no different! Popular though it may be, chewing on different kinds of objects has the potential to be destructive. For example, a child who bites their nails can chip the enamel, crack their teeth, or irritate the soft tissue inside the teeth.
This particular bad habit can also transfer bacteria from a child’s hands to their mouth, and as we all know, it’s more important than ever to curb anything that increases the risk of infection.
If you have an older child who is prone to chewing on things or biting their nails, try offering sugarless gum to help them focus on something less damaging. 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. The good news is, these items are also excellent ways to boost their oral (and total body) health!
Teeth grinding is also known as bruxism, and tends to be relatively common in younger kids. Most children outgrow this habit eventually, but it can cause some problems for them 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 and disrupt sleep. This can also lead to various physical symptoms, such as headaches, earaches, and jaw pain.
There are many possible causes for bruxism, but it’s often seen in children who have bite and alignment issues. In these cases, orthodontic treatment can be incredibly beneficial! We have four experienced orthodontists with the knowledge, skills, and experience to give your child a healthy smile that’s fully functional.
Early orthodontic evaluations
As parents, we’re the first role models our kids have. It’s up to us to help them develop good oral habits like brushing and flossing regularly. But learning what bad oral habits look like and taking steps to correct them is a big part of maintaining a healthy mouth, too! One way to do this is by scheduling an early orthodontic evaluation with our expert team. This is recommended by the American Association of Orthodontists for all children around 7 years old, as it gives us a chance to assess their bite. By this age, we’re also able to get an idea of how the front-to-back and side-to-side relationships are developing.
Some parents worry that this will lead to orthodontic treatment immediately, but in reality, only a small percentage of young patients will require this. Early evaluations are still valuable, though! They allow us to monitor a child’s oral development as they grow and catch any potential issues before they become more serious. Beginning treatment at the most opportune time will give your child the best chance for a lifetime of healthy smiles.
Tackle tough oral habits with Kottemann Orthodontics
Kottemann Orthodontics has been creating beautiful smiles for patients of all ages in Plymouth, Maple Grove, Chaska, and Orono for more than 60 years! We currently have four highly-trained orthodontists who can not only improve smiles but identify any underlying bad habits as well. Our team is always happy to advise parents and children on how to successfully deal with them.
When you schedule an evaluation with us, one of our doctors will perform a thorough examination of your child’s mouth. They’ll also go over their medical and dental history, and discuss any concerns you may have about their dental development. If a customized treatment plan is recommended for them, it will take into account any destructive oral habits the child has and include our suggestions for correcting or eliminating them.
If you believe your child needs help breaking free from a bad oral habit, get in touch with us today! We’ll schedule your FREE consultation and help you both take the first steps towards a healthier smile.