Identifying Bad Habits That Can Affect Your Child’s Smile

It’s not uncommon for small children to pick up bad habits from time to time. While some of them may be frustrating for parents, most of them tend to be relatively harmless. That doesn’t mean they all are, however! We’re here to help you with identifying bad habits that can affect your child’s smile. There are several oral habits that can damage the way a child’s smile looks, feels, or functions. Over time, this can result in a variety of dental issues, including: 

  • tooth decay
  • misaligned teeth and jaw
  • difficulty eating
  • interrupted sleep
  • speech problems 

Here at Laidlaw Orthodontics, we’ve seen the harm that bad oral habits can cause up close and personal. We’re familiar with the many ways this can disrupt a child’s life and want to help parents prevent that! Part of keeping a child’s smile healthy is identifying and addressing these bad habits as soon as possible. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the ones we see most often and discuss how we can help you get them under control. Keep reading for more information!

Thumb and finger sucking

This is one of the most common habits we encounter in our practice. While thumb and finger sucking happens most frequently in early childhood, it can sometimes persist into adolescence and even adulthood. If it’s allowed to continue over a long enough period of time, thumb and finger sucking 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

These issues may range from mild to serious, depending on the severity of the habit and the way a child positions the thumb or finger in their mouth. Without treatment, the cosmetic appearance of the teeth may suffer. Damage may occur beneath the gums as well.

Lip sucking is a related habit, although it’s not as common as thumb or finger sucking. While it usually results in little more than chapped or inflamed lips, a more serious habit could cause the upper front teeth to flare out or the lower front teeth to tilt towards the tongue. Eventually, these teeth may lose the ability to touch when the mouth is closed.


Crunching on ice and chewing on other objects

Adults and kids alike enjoy crunching on leftover ice or chewing their fingernails when they’re bored or anxious. This habit is not uncommon, but it does have the potential to be destructive. For example, a child who bites their nails may experience chipped enamel, cracked teeth, or irritation of the soft tissue inside the teeth. 

As if that’s not enough, this particular bad habit can also transfer bacteria from a child’s hands to their mouth! The last year has taught us that it’s more important than ever to curb any practice that can increase the risk of infection, and that certainly includes nail-biting.

If you have an older child who is prone to chewing on things or biting their nails, try offering sugarless gum to help them focus on something less damaging. Children that are too young for gum may respond well to a healthy snack that has a satisfying crunch, like carrots, celery, or apple slices ( these also happen to be great for their oral health!)

Identifying Bad Habits That Can Affect Your Child’s Smile

Teeth grinding

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is fairly common, especially in younger children. Most kids outgrow this habit by their teen years, but it can still cause problems while it continues. For example, the grinding action itself wears down the enamel of the teeth, which can damage the tooth and also disrupt sleep. This can lead to other physical symptoms such as headaches, earaches, and jaw pain. While there are many possible causes for bruxism, it’s often seen in children with bite and alignment issues. In these cases, orthodontic treatment can be incredibly beneficial.

How early orthodontic evaluations can help

Part of our job as parents is teaching our children how to take care of their smiles. That means developing good habits like regular brushing and flossing, but identifying and addressing bad habits is part of that, too! 

One way to do this is by scheduling an early orthodontic evaluation for them. This is something the American Association of Orthodontists recommends for all children around the age of 7 years old. At this point, a child’s mouth will have enough dental landmarks that an orthodontist like Dr. Laidlaw can assess their bite. She’ll also be able to get a look at how the front-to-back and side-to-side relationships are developing. 

Some parents worry that this will lead to orthodontic treatment immediately. The truth is, we only recommend this in a small percentage of the younger patients we see. These early evaluations are still valuable, however! They allow us to monitor a child’s oral development as they grow and allow us to catch any potential issues before they become more serious.  Beginning treatment at the most opportune time gives children the best chance at a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Identifying Bad Habits That Can Affect Your Child’s Smile

Break bad oral habits with help from Laidlaw Orthodontics

As a trained and experienced orthodontist, Dr. Laidlaw is able to not only correct misaligned teeth and other dental issues but also identify any underlying bad habits. If she spots one that’s a potential problem for your child, she’ll advise you on the best course of action for the healthiest smile! 

When you schedule a complimentary evaluation for your child in our Hillsboro office, Dr. Laidlaw will perform a thorough examination and discuss any concerns you may have about their dental development. We’ll also go over their medical and dental history. If a customized treatment plan is necessary, it will take into account any destructive oral habits they have and include our suggestions for correcting or eliminating them.

If you believe your child needs help breaking free from a bad oral habit, get in touch with us today and schedule a FREE consultation with Dr. Laidlaw! We’d love to help you both take the first step towards a stronger, healthier smile.