Recognizing Bad Habits That Can Affect Your Child’s Teeth

Kids pick up bad habits all the time, but they rarely warrant concern from an orthodontist. Some of them, however, can affect how a child’s smile develops as they grow. Even seemingly innocuous oral habits may lead to tooth decay and misalignments, and more serious ones may cause difficulty eating, speaking, sleeping, or even breathing properly. We’re here to help you with recognizing these bad habits that can affect your child’s teeth!

Because these bad habits can be damaging to the teeth and jaws, they should be identified and addressed as soon as possible. That’s where Wiesemann Orthodontics can help! 

Like many things in life, prevention is often the best course of action when it comes to orthodontics. But what happens if you’re not sure which oral habits are okay and which can cause problems? We’ve outlined a few of the most harmful habits we see in children below, so keep reading to learn more about them! 

Extended thumb, finger, or pacifier sucking

Many infants and young children naturally self-soothe by sucking on their fingers and thumbs. Pacifiers are popular for the same reason—they provide babies with a sense of comfort and security. As beneficial as this can be in infancy and early childhood, it can become problematic if the habit continues past a certain point—usually once the permanent teeth have emerged. If these behaviors persist for a long enough period of time, they may experience any of the following: 

  • 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

Lip sucking is a related issue that some children struggle with. While it usually results in nothing more than chapped or inflamed lips, it can sometimes 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. 

Biting the fingernails or chewing on objects

It’s not unusual for us to see children who chew on things like pencils, ice, their own nails, and other items to help them concentrate. This can also alleviate anxiety and relieve boredom. These repetitive actions may seem harmless, but they put unnecessary pressure on the teeth. This can chip away at the enamel, crack the teeth, and irritate the soft tissue inside a tooth.

Now more than ever, it’s important to keep our hands away from the face and mouth to help prevent all kinds of infection, including COVID-19. There are bacteria that thrive under the fingernails, and nail biting gives them an easy entry point into the mouth. 

If you have an older child who is prone to chewing on things or biting their nails, you can offer them sugarless gum to help break the habit. Younger children who can’t be trusted with gum may respond well to a healthy snack with a satisfying crunch, like carrots, celery, or apple slices. These foods are also excellent for their teeth and oral health!

Playing sports without using a mouthguard

Protective gear like helmets and pads are par for the course when it comes to kids who play sports. But what about protecting their smile? Many parents overlook the importance of mouthguards, but with over 3 million teeth knocked out every year during youth sporting events, they’re a worthwhile investment! 

Mouthguards don’t just protect a child’s teeth. They also cushion the lips and tongue and help prevent teeth from being chipped, broken, or knocked out. In fact, the American Dental Association reports that more than 200,000 oral injuries are prevented each year by wearing a mouthguard! And while a mouthguard won’t prevent a concussion, it can reduce the chances of a severe injury to the face or mouth.

Grinding the teeth

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, can be a hard habit to break. This is especially true when it mostly occurs while a child is sleeping. Most children outgrow it eventually, but it is capable of causing some problems while it continues. For example, the grinding action can cause small cracks in the tooth enamel. It can also wear down the molars and lead to headaches, earaches, and jaw pain. Some research has even demonstrated a possible link between bruxism and anxiety, stress, and depression in those who suffer from it.

There are numerous possible causes for teeth grinding, but it’s very common in children who have bite and alignment issues in their upper or lower jaw. Correcting these malocclusions with orthodontic treatment can help relieve or eliminate many of the symptoms associated with bruxism. 

Early orthodontic evaluations

One of the easiest ways to guarantee your child’s smile stays healthy is to teach them good oral habits, like brushing and flossing properly. But it’s just as important to identify and stop bad habits as soon as you can, too! 

This is one reason the American Association of Orthodontists recommends all children see an orthodontist by around 7 years old. By this age, the back bite is already established. That means an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Wiesemann can evaluate the side-to-side and front-to-back tooth relationships and see how their smile is developing.

This is a valuable tool because it allows us to catch many issues early on, before they have the chance to become more serious. Immediate treatment may not be necessary, but monitoring the child’s oral development as they grow is beneficial because we can begin treatment at the most opportune time to help their smile grow correctly. This gives them the best chance for a lifetime of happy smiles and good oral health!

Wiesemann Orthodontics is here to help your child’s smile succeed 

Dr. Wiesemann is a trained specialist with many years of experience in correcting a wide range of orthodontic issues. He’s also able to identify any underlying habits that may need attention! We create a customized treatment plan for every patient, which will take into account any destructive oral habits and include suggestions for correcting or eliminating them. 

With conveniently located offices in Bowling Green, Russellville, Portland, and White House, we’re never far from your home, work, or school. If you have a child who could use some help with breaking a bad oral habit, get in touch with us today and schedule a FREE consultation with Dr. Wiesemann!