Bad Habits That Could Hurt Your Child’s Smile

For better or for worse, habits that we form at young ages stay with us for the rest of our lives. That means that it’s important to teach your child good oral health habits so they can keep their smiles healthy! It’s important to reinforce positive habits that they have, but recognizing bad habits that could hurt your child’s smile can be a bit more difficult.

Bad oral habits are a common cause of poor dental health in children, and can make it difficult for your child to function at school and home. Destructive oral habits are seen in patients of all ages, and leaving them unaddressed can lead to cosmetic or structural damage to the teeth and jaws. 

Many parents want to help their child break their bad dental habits but aren’t sure where to begin. Educating them on how these habits can impact their teeth and working on some minor behavior modification is a good bet, but severe cases may require dental or orthodontic intervention. Here at Moon Orthodontics, we’re all about helping your child achieve a healthy, functional, and beautiful smile. Read on to learn more about recognizing some bad habits that could hurt your child’s smile—and how we can help you tackle them!

Thumb and finger sucking

No matter where you live, thumb and finger sucking is a common habit. In fact, 1 in 5 children still suck their thumb by the time they start school! Most kids outgrow this eventually, but if it persists for a long enough period, a range of orthodontic issues can develop, including:

  • open bite of the front teeth
  • flared upper incisors
  • tipping of the lower incisors
  • misalignment of the permanent teeth 
  • deformities of the roof of the mouth

Treatment may be necessary depending on how serious the habit is, how long it lasts, and how your child’s finger and mouth are interacting with each other. The teeth may be affected both cosmetically and structurally if the habit isn’t broken or if more serious issues that result are left untreated.

Lip sucking is a bit less common than thumb or finger sucking, and usually results in nothing more than painfully chapped lips. If done excessively, however, it can cause the upper front teeth to flare out or the lower front teeth to tilt towards the tongue. With enough time, the teeth may no longer touch when the mouth is closed. 

Bad Habits That Could Hurt Your Child's Smile
Chewing on hard objects

Plenty of children develop the habit of chewing on hard objects like ice, pencils, pen tops, and their own fingernails. Since this is often a subconscious habit, it can be a lot trickier to treat! 

It’s important to find and address the root cause of this habit, be it boredom, nerves, or a need for distraction. Biting down on hard objects like these can chip away at the enamel of the teeth, or even crack the tooth itself and irritate the soft tissue inside. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us a great reason to break bad habits like nail-biting! Biting your nails gives the bacteria and germs that thrive under our fingernails an easy access point right into your mouth, which is exactly why experts recommend keeping our hands away from our face and mouth to help prevent infection. 

If you have a child who likes to chew on things or bite their nails, there are several things you can do to help keep their minds off their habit! Sugarless gum or healthy snacks that have a satisfying crunch, like carrots and apple slices, can be a useful chewing replacement. These are good for their teeth, too!  

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is common in children and preteens. Though many outgrow it over time, it can cause serious issues as long as it persists. The constant clenching of the teeth can wear down the enamel, and children who have experienced prolonged teeth grinding have reported more frequent headaches, earaches, and jaw pain even after they stop.

Many effects of bruxism are emotional instead of physical. Some clinical studies have demonstrated a possible link between teeth grinding and anxiety, stress, and depression in those who suffer from it. There are many possible causes for this bad habit, but teeth grinding is very common in children who have bite and alignment issues in their upper or lower jaw. Correcting these malocclusions with orthodontic treatment from Dr. Joe Moon can help your child get a straighter smile and a better night’s sleep! 

Bad Habits That Could Hurt Your Child's Smile
Give your child’s smile the best start with Moon Orthodontics

Helping our children develop good oral habits is part of our job as parents, and stopping bad habits is an important part of that. That’s one reason that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends all children see an orthodontist by the time they’re 7 years old! At this age, the back bite is already established, meaning an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Joe Moon will be able to evaluate the side-to-side and front-to-back tooth relationships. He’ll also have the opportunity to assess the child’s bite.

An orthodontic evaluation at Moon Orthodontics won’t always lead to treatment. We only recommend immediate orthodontic treatment for a small percentage of the younger patients we see, but these early evaluations are still valuable! They give us the chance to monitor a child’s oral development as they grow and address any issues that may cause problems, whether now or down the line. 

Beginning treatment at the most opportune time in a child’s life will help their smile develop correctly, giving them the best start on a lifetime of healthy, happy smiles! Our customized treatment plans will take into account poor habits your child may have, and include personalized suggestions for helping your child develop better oral habits. Our conveniently-located offices in Overland Park and Olathe mean that solutions for your child’s smile are just a short drive away. Get in touch with us today to schedule a free consultation!