Do Oral Habits Affect the Children’s Growing Teeth?

Learn how to break bad habits that can ruin your child's dental development

The hard truth is that there are multiple factors playing against your child’s perfect dental alignment, and this includes any bad habits from childhood that can lead to orthodontic complications. Let’s start assuming that neither parent has a history of orthodontic problems in their family and has never required orthodontic treatment for malocclusions or dental malalignment. Even then, it’s possible your kid might have problems with their teeth and jaws because of bad habits, such as tongue thrusting, thumb sucking, and teeth grinding.

Let’s check out what causes these situations to develop in the first place, what every parent should know about their kids’ teeth, and how an orthodontist, like Dr. Nima, can help your kid correct those bad habits or the orthodontic problems that arose because of them.

What Is Tongue Thrusting?

During the child’s first years of life, they may develop some type of tongue thrusting as an acquired reflex due to high-stress situations and more. The risk here is that, whether it affects baby teeth or permanent ones, it can severely impact their alignment and lead to oral health complications or social development disadvantages.

What Causes Tongue Thrusting?

As we mentioned, tongue thrusting is the result of environmental causes, meaning that your child won’t naturally develop this reflex unless something else triggers it. In most cases, children undergoing prolonged pacifier use, abusing thumb sucking, having unusually large tongues, enduring mouth breathing, or having developed an open bite, are at risk of also developing a tongue thrust.

Can You Detect Tongue Thrusting?

The hard part is actually noticing this behavior as the child’s tongue usually remains hidden behind their closed mouth and teeth. Most parents discover the negative effects only when it’s too late.

One way to avoid that is to pay close attention to your child when they laugh or smile. Note their tongue’s position and check consistently if they appear to be pushing their teeth with the tip of their tongue.

How to Treat a Tongue Thrust With a Tongue Crib?

Orthodontics is all about the available tools, a.k.a. orthodontic appliances, that can help a specialist draw up a treatment plan, and a patient realign their smile.

Queue a tongue crib. This lesser-known appliance is usually a stainless steel appliance that has bars that sit just behind the patient’s top frontal teeth, making it impossible for the tongue to exert continuous pressure over the teeth and move them away from their correct position.

Depending on each child’s case, we might recommend a permanent or removable appliance. They will have to wear the tongue crib anywhere between 6 to 12 months and come back to our orthodontic office in Roswell to verify that all is going according to plan.

What About Stopping Thumb Sucking?

First of all, we’d like to clarify that, in and of itself, thumb-sucking isn’t all bad for your kid’s dental alignment. The real problem starts when your child doesn’t abandon the habit past ages 2, 4, or 6.

Thumb sucking is even expected of some children at a certain point in their life; however, it can still lead to severe dentofacial alterations. Any sucking motion is potentially dangerous, as, given enough force over a long-enough period, teeth will begin shifting positions.

What Are Some Negative Effects of Thumb Sucking?

First and foremost, your child’s dentofacial structures will begin to suffer alterations. Please be aware of your kid’s habits and take a moment to analyze the frequency, intensity, and duration of the times when they are sucking on their thumb.

We don’t mean to scare you, but this bad habit can lead to severe orthopedic, muscular, dental, functional, and facial-skeletal development complications.

If left unchecked by the child’s parents, thumb sucking will lead to dental health and alignment problems that might require the use of traditional metal braces or Invisalign clear aligner trays for extended periods.

How to Stop the Bad Habit of Thumb Sucking

Our first recommendation is that you go easy and avoid distressing your child. You can start worrying if the kid doesn’t stop the habit on their own around age 5. Likewise, as they become more and more sociable after age 4, you can start recommending and explaining which behaviors are desirable in public and why sucking on their thumb may not be on that list.

Talk to your child and make them feel comfortable. The American Dental Association (ADA) has several recommendations for parents.

We like to highlight that you can dip your child’s thumb in an unpleasant liquid substance that only has a bad taste but won’t upset their stomach to start discouraging the bad habit.

Ask Your Roswell Orthodontist for Early Orthodontic Treatment

Recurring readers of our blog posts will already be familiar with the recommendation to bring their kids as early as possible to the orthodontist so we can review their dental development and identify any causes for concern regarding their dental alignment.

Set an appointment for your kid and bring them to receive the help you require and make the most out of an early orthodontic treatment that helps your child keep their smile in top shape.