Keeping your children’s dental health in optimal condition is one of your top priorities as a parent. Taking care of their oral health should start as early as the first eruption of their tooth. It’s vital to continue encouraging children to practice good dental hygiene, such as brushing their teeth for a full 2 minutes twice a day.
Unfortunately, some kids develop bad oral habits along the way. These bad habits can potentially sabotage everything you’ve taught them about oral care. If notice any signs of such behaviours, nip those in the bud. Breaking bad habits and creating healthy ones is key to maintaining your child’s oral health.
Biting bits of the fingernail could chip or fracture your kid’s front teeth. Over time, this bad habit could cause significant tooth enamel damage. Your kid could develop teeth grinding. Children wearing braces and biting their fingernails might be at greater risk of tooth loss.
Dentists also report that nail-biting could also cause gum disease and infection, including gingivitis and gingival trauma. Small bits of fingernails could be stuck under the gums or scratch the gum tissues, allowing the germs to infect or irritate the gums. Biting nails allows bacteria to enter the mouth and spread to other parts of the body.
Chewing on Ice, Pencils, and Pens
Some children unconsciously gnaw on their pencil or pen when concentrating or studying, while others love to chew on ice after finishing their beverage. However, the habit of chewing things other than food can be destructive to their teeth. Chewing on the end of a pencil can introduce bacteria into the mouth. Meanwhile, chewing ice could chip or break their teeth or erode their enamel, causing kids to experience tooth pain.
Eating Hard Candies and Sticky, Sugary Treats
Kids love sweets, and they enjoy eating them all the time. Sucking on hard candies and chewing sticky sweet treats, such as gummy bears, can promote tooth decay. Bacteria can feed on the sugar in their mouth. These bacteria can produce acids that eat at tooth enamel. Although children may find it hard to resist sweet treats all the time, make sure they brush their teeth not long after enjoying them.
Opening Bags and Packages Using Teeth
Some kids use their teeth to open potato chip bags and other plastic packages. Unfortunately, using the teeth like scissors can damage them. If your children have a habit of opening bags and packaging with their teeth, stop them right away and let them use actual scissors to open difficult packages.
Babies suck their thumbs as a way to comfort themselves. However, help your child break the habit before their permanent teeth set in. Over time, thumb sucking can cause an overbite or affect the natural aligning of the teeth, which can result in difficulty chewing and speaking. This could cost your child expensive orthodontic dental work in the future. The same is true for allowing your child to use a pacifier for an extended period. Make sure to stop giving your baby a pacifier at age one.
Brushing Teeth Too Hard
Parents want their children to brush their teeth enthusiastically. However, without proper guidance, children tend to brush their teeth too hard, damaging both gums and teeth. Whether your kid’s toothbrush is electric or manual, teach them the proper way of brushing their teeth. Make sure they brush their teeth gently using a soft-bristled toothbrush.
Sucking a Baby Bottle at Night
Many parents believe that baby teeth are not as important as permanent ones. Dental health experts, on the other hand, say that baby teeth play a significant role in helping children eat and speak. They also help set up adult teeth in the proper alignment and position.
However, nighttime bottle feeding can contribute to teeth pitting and discolouration. Soon you will notice that your kid’s teeth are turning yellow. The sugar from the milk or juice will linger on the teeth overnight and wear down the enamel, increasing the risk of your kid’s teeth cavity and decay. Make sure to wipe their teeth with a wet, soft, clean cloth to remove the sugar on their teeth.
Frequent Consumption of Fruit Juices and Sodas
Aside from sweet treats, children also love drinking fruit juices and sodas. However, these beverages are not only high in sugar but also acidic. Frequently drinking fruit juices and soda can erode the enamel, stripping the teeth of its natural protection. Eroded enamel and dentin can cause sensitive teeth when drinking hot or cold beverages.
Skipping Dental Visits
Dentists also play a crucial role in keeping your kid’s oral health in top shape. Dental appointments should be done every 6 months or as necessary. Dental professionals do not only help treat tooth decay in children—kids need teeth cleaning too. In addition to kid’s teeth cleaning and checkup, it allows the dentist to discuss good oral health habits with children to help them understand the importance of taking care of their teeth. Allowing your kids to skip dental appointments could result in dire consequences.
How to Help Your Kids Stop Their Bad Habits
Parents should be good role models for their children, especially when it comes to oral care. We understand that breaking bad habits can be difficult but showing them good healthy behaviour can encourage them to be better.
Nagging and pressuring your kids to stop would not go any good. Instead, gently educate them about the effects of their habits and how they can wreak havoc on their teeth. For instance, having a dentist to explain the effects of nail-biting and thumb-sucking on their teeth. Keep in mind that being educational than being judgmental can do magic on many children.
Here are some quick tips to remember when dealing with your child:
- Work with them in the process of breaking the habit.
- Offer alternative behaviour. If your child has a habit of biting their nails, give them some to bite on, like a raw stick of carrot.
- Reinforce their positive behaviour by praising and giving your child a small reward.
- Make sure you are consistent in rewarding and praising their good behaviour.
- If your child has a habit of sucking their thumb while watching television, provide a distraction, such as asking their help in the kitchen or working on on a craft.
Breaking bad habits usually takes time. Work with them constantly and be sure to be patient until they successfully establish healthier behaviours.
Dr. Urszula Barrios and her team of kid-friendly dentists in Guelph are here to help parents keep their children’s teeth healthy. Our years of experience in handling pediatric dentistry can help us develop a connection with our little patients. Call us today at (519) 767-6453 to book an appointment.