Recognizing Bad Habits That Affect Your Child’s Teeth

Every parent loves to see their child smile and all the little imperfections only add to its unique charm. However, untreated issues such as crowded teeth and misalignments can interfere with a child’s ability to eat, sleep, speak, and function well at home and school. 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 understanding how to help!

While many factors 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 other similar issues. Destructive habits like these are common among babies, toddlers, and young children, but adults can struggle with some of them as well. 

Since these bad habits can cause cosmetic and structural damage to the teeth and jaws, 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 Dillehay Orthodontists, 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 address them with our help! Keep reading below to learn more. 

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 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 provides us with an additional daily reminder 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 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 persists. 

For example, the grinding action 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 from headaches, earaches, and jaw pain. There are several possible causes for this bad habit, but teeth grinding is especially common in children dealing with bite and alignment issues in their upper or lower jaw. Correcting these malocclusions with orthodontic treatment at Dillehay Orthodontics can help! 

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, it can cause problems 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

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, not only cosmetically, but below the surface of their smile as well. 

Although not as common as thumb or finger sucking, lip sucking can be an issue for some children as well. 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 timeframe, these teeth may lose the ability to touch when the mouth is closed. That’s why recognizing bad habits that affect your child’s teeth is so important!


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 recommends all children see an orthodontist by the time they’re seven years old. Some parents in Wichita and Derby 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 our orthodontists, Dr. Ken and Dr. JK Dillehay can evaluate the side-to-side and front-to-back tooth relationships and assess the child’s bite. 

An orthodontic evaluation doesn’t always lead to orthodontic treatment, however. We typically only recommend immediate orthodontic treatment for a small fraction of the younger patients we see. Early evaluations are still valuable, though! 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 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 Dillehay Orthodontics

While an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Ken or Dr. JK can correct misaligned teeth and other issues, recognizing bad habits that affect your child’s health is an important part of any diagnosis. We’ll create a customized treatment plan that will take into account any destructive oral habit your child may have and the best ways to correct or eliminate it. If you’re in the Wichita, Derby, or the surrounding areas and have a child who might need a little help breaking a bad oral habit, contact our team today and schedule a FREE consultation!