Your child’s baby teeth act as guides for their developing, future smile. They also impact diet, speech, and self-confidence. But here are four bad habits that could permanently damage your child’s teeth.

Thumb, Finger, Pacifier Sucking or Extended Bottle/Sippy Cup Use

When a child sucks on a foreign object (including fingers or bottles) on a repeated basis, it permanently changes the growth patterns of their jaws and erupting teeth. This can lead to several problems if the habit lasts too long. Some habit related side effects include 1) “open bites” where the front teeth don’t bite through food, 2) overbites where the front teeth stick out forward of the lower jaw and 3) “cross bite” where the upper jaw becomes narrow due to the forces of suction and can become narrower than the lower teeth. Over time, all of these bite abnormalities can cause severe jaw disorders, malnutrition, negative psychosocial effects and possible speech delays.

It’s ideal to wean children of sucking habits as early as possible.

Tongue Thrusting

There is some controversy in the orthodontic scientific literature about tongue thrusting. The prevailing wisdom that unless the tongue is oversized (some medical conditions can cause this) tongue thrusting is usually a side effect of a bite abnormality like an open bite. All people push their tongue forward to swallow. This action causes the tongue to curl up like a slide and helps us make a wave motion on the back of the tongue that guides our food toward our esophagus. When children don’t learn to swallow correctly (usually because of sucking habits and their effects on the bite described above) it causes irregular tongue movements when they swallow. Tongue thrusting therefore is a muscle behavior that is a reaction to the dental situation and not the cause of the dental situation.

Going to Sleep With a Bottle or Sippy Cup (with anything other than WATER)

Sleeping with a cup or bottle of anything other than water can result in rampant tooth decay. Particularly along the top front teeth. We often refer to this condition as “baby bottle tooth decay”. Since milk or liquids with natural sugars (including fruit juice) feed bacteria, it’s best to restrict them to meal times only. If consumed for extended periods of time like at night, your child will certainly have many cavity problems so this MUST be avoided no matter what.

Not Brushing Teeth Once They Erupt

Skipping toothbrushing twice a day will allow plaque buildup to accumulate along your child’s teeth and gums. Eventually gingivitis and tooth decay will develop in those areas. It’s important to disrupt plaque bacteria with regular brushing and flossing from day one.

Not Attending Baby and Toddler Dental Exams Regularly

Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan caters to children of all ages, including infants and toddlers. Starting dental visits with your child from a young age with one of our specialists in childhood dental care will help your child experience dentistry as a positive and important aspect of growing up healthy. Plan your child’s first dental checkup as soon as their first tooth erupts!