Helping your child form good oral habits now can help them better maintain their oral health in the future. Inversely, not kicking their bad habits as a child can lead to many dental problems that can plague them even in later adulthood.
We all know the basics of good oral hygiene: brushing, flossing, using mouthwash, and going to a kids’ dentist regularly. However, what are the bad habits that may be canceling these efforts? Here are some examples of childhood habits that can increase your child’s risk of dental issues now and later in life.
Chewing on something hard
If your child likes to chew on ice, popcorn kernels, fruit pits, or any other type of hard food or object, put a stop to that habit as soon as possible. Chewing on hard things can put unnecessary stress on the teeth and cause tiny cracks in the enamel surface, making your child’s teeth more susceptible to tooth decay or complete tooth loss.
Every time your child puts something hard in their mouth, make it a point to stop them right away. It can take seemingly countless times before they learn not to bite or chew on something hard, but it is necessary to help keep their teeth healthy.
It is best to stop the use of a pacifier as soon as your baby starts growing teeth. This is because the shape of a pacifier can alter the natural shape of the jaw and teeth, leading to gaps or crowding as your baby’s teeth grow. If you did not take away the pacifier soon enough, your child might develop a thumb-sucking habit because of the extended attachment to the feeling of a pacifier in their mouth.
Excessive thumb-sucking can lead to an overbite, gaps in the teeth, or tooth crowding, among other misalignment issues. Just like using the pacifier, it is best to break this habit right away. If you’re having trouble helping your child stop sucking their thumb, bring the issue up during their next dentist visit. They will recommend several methods on how you can help your child get rid of the habit. As a last resort, they may offer a dental crib, a device installed in the roof of a child’s mouth to prevent suction.
Using bottles or sippy cups
Similar to pacifiers and thumb-sucking, excessive use of baby bottles or sippy cups can lead to alignment issues and jaw problems. Moreover, these drinking containers extend the time it takes for the liquid to go through the mouth, which can make the sugars in milk and juice stay longer and increase the risk of tooth decay.
To avoid cavities now and in the future, transition your child to a regular cup as soon as possible. Many children can transition to cup feeding at a very young age. Although this may mean more messes for you to clean up, letting your child use a regular cup as soon as possible can keep their teeth in great shape—quite literally! Moreover, forgoing sippy cups and baby bottles early can help reduce their attachment to having something in their mouth.
Eating and drinking too much sugar
Almost every parent has a hard time limiting their child’s sugar intake, but the effort is always worth it in the end. Aside from helping your child maintain a healthy weight, keeping their sugar consumption at an acceptable level helps reduce the risk of developing cavities—the number one dental problem for people of all ages.
Aside from limiting their sugar intake, ensure that your child forms the habit of drinking lots of water and brushing their teeth after eating or drinking something sugary. This way, they can flush out as much of the sugar stuck on their teeth as much as possible and decrease the risk of tooth decay.
Teeth grinding can wear down the teeth and lead to other oral problems. Some children grind their teeth because of stress, anxiety, or abnormal teeth. In any case, find the root cause of your child’s teeth grinding problem and address it as soon as possible. If they grind their teeth because of misalignment, they may have to wear braces to stop the habit.
Help your child achieve better oral health now and in the future by kicking these bad habits as early as possible. At the same time, help them form good oral hygiene habits and teach the importance of taking care of their teeth early on so that they carry these habits for the rest of their life.