Recognizing Bad Habits That Affect Your Child’s Teeth

Dr. Mark Clauss March 31, 2021

When your child is dealing with oral issues such as crowded teeth or misalignments, they can suffer some serious consequences! When left untreated, these issues can interfere with your child’s ability to eat, sleep, speak, and function well at home and school. As a parent, we know you want to help to ensure a healthy beautiful smile for your child, and our Clauss Orthodontics team is here to help! 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 that start in childhood like thumb sucking, extended bottle use, and other similar issues. These destructive habits are common among babies, toddlers, and young children, but adults can struggle with some of them, too. 

Bad oral 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 Clauss Orthodontics, our goal is the same as yours – 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. 

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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 oral health can 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 can result 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. When left unaddressed over a long period, these teeth may lose the ability to touch when the mouth is closed.

Teeth Grinding

Anyone who’s ever experienced a child grinding their teeth at night will tell you all that crunching and squeaking can be irritating! But teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a pretty common habit, especially in children and pre-teens. Research shows that most children eventually outgrow grinding their teeth, however, it can still cause some problems while it persists. 

The consistent 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 over time, 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 has given us additional daily reminders 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!

Early Orthodontic Evaluations

Getting a head start on your child’s oral health is a critical aspect of breaking bad habits. This is one reason the American Association of Orthodontists recommends all children see an orthodontist by the age of seven. 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. This gives Dr. Clauss the best opportunity to evaluate the side-to-side and front-to-back tooth relationships and assess the child’s bite. 

It’s important to know that an orthodontic evaluation doesn’t necessarily lead to orthodontic treatment. We typically only recommend immediate orthodontic treatment for a small fraction of the younger patients we see. However, early evaluations still have plenty of benefits! 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 develop correctly. This gives them the best chance for a lifetime of healthy smiles! 

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Break Bad Habits and Build Healthier Smiles with Clauss Orthodontics

Recognizing bad habits that affect your child’s teeth is the first step to help to break them! Dr. Clauss and his team of experts are here to help you every step of the way. When you schedule your child’s initial consultation at our offices in Watertown and Woodbury, 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.