Recognizing Bad Habits That Affect Your Child’s Teeth

As a parent, you love to see your child smile and the little imperfections only add to its unique charm. However, untreated issues like crowded teeth and misalignments can interfere with your child’s ability to eat, sleep, speak, and function well at home and school. Orthodontic treatment can be a solution for many of these issues, but often the first step in fixing the problem is recognizing bad habits that affect your child’s teeth. 

While there are several factors that must be considered when it comes to a child’s oral health, one of the most common causes of misaligned teeth is bad habits like thumb sucking, extended bottle use, and many others. Destructive habits like these are frequently seen among babies, toddlers, and young children, but adults can struggle with some of them as well. Since these bad habits can lead to cosmetic and structural damage to the teeth and jaws, it’s important to address them early on! This can be as simple as patient education and minor behavior modification or may require dental and orthodontic work. 

Here at Dudley Smiles, we want to see your child’s smile thrive. Let’s take a closer look at some of the bad habits that can negatively affect your child’s teeth, and how you can tackle them with our help! Keep reading below to learn more about recognizing bad habits that affect your child’s teeth. 

Thumb and Finger Sucking

Thumb and finger sucking is probably the most common oral habit we see in young children. Most kids tend to outgrow this by the time they start school, but if it persists for a long period of time, it can cause problems, 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

All of these problems can vary in intensity, depending on the severity of the habit and the position of the thumb or finger in the mouth. If left untreated, your child’s teeth may suffer cosmetically and 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 often results 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. Over a long enough period of time, these teeth may lose the ability to touch when the mouth is closed.


Chewing On Objects

Children and adults both can develop the bad habit of chewing on objects like ice, pens and pencils, or fingernails. Many of these are picked up subconsciously due to boredom or distraction, but 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, nail-biting gives the bacteria that thrive under your fingernails an easy access point into your mouth. The COVID-19 pandemic gives us 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!

Teeth Grinding

Anyone who’s ever experienced a child grinding their teeth at night will tell you how irritating all that crunching and squeaking can be! But teeth grinding, or bruxism, is actually a pretty common habit, especially in children and pre-teens. While research has shown that most children eventually outgrow grinding their teeth, it can still cause some problems for them while it continues. 

For example, grinding can wear down the enamel of a 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 headaches, earaches, and jaw pain. There are a number of possible causes for this bad habit, but teeth grinding is very common in children dealing with bite and alignment issues in their upper or lower jaw. Correcting these malocclusions with orthodontic treatment can help! 

Early Orthodontic Evaluations

Developing good oral habits in your children is critical, and stopping bad habits is just as important! This is one reason the American Association of Orthodontists and our doctors recommend that all children see an orthodontist by the time they’re 7 years old! 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. That means orthodontists can evaluate the side-to-side and front-to-back tooth relationships and assess the child’s bite. 

An orthodontic evaluation doesn’t necessarily lead to orthodontic treatment! In fact, we recommend immediate orthodontic treatment for only a small fraction of the younger patients we see. Early evaluations are still valuable, though. That’s because they allow us to monitor a child’s oral development as they grow and catch any issues that may cause problems now or in the future. When we’re given the opportunity to begin treatment at the most opportune time, we can help a child’s smile grow correctly. This gives them the best chance for a lifetime of healthy smiles! 


Break Bad Habits and Gain A Healthier Smile with Dudley Smiles 

Although an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Dudley is able to correct misaligned teeth and other issues, identifying a bad oral habit is an important aspect of any diagnosis. Recognizing bad habits that affect your child’s teeth is important to a healthy smile. Our customized treatment plans will take into account any destructive oral habits and include ways to correct or eliminate them. If you’re in Issaquah, Kent, or the surrounding areas and have a child who might need a little help breaking a bad oral habit, get in touch with us today and schedule a FREE consultation!