4 Habits That Are Bad for Children’s Teeth
(And How to Break Them)
Good habits should start early in life, and healthy dental habits are no exception. It’s important for parents to teach their children the right way to care for teeth. Brushing, flossing, and using fluoride rinse are all familiar, healthy practices. Good habits are important. But what about the bad habits? It’s just as important to get rid of bad dental routines as it is to teach good ones. Below are four common habits children may develop that should be avoided for good dental health.
Many parents have heard of the negative side effects of thumb sucking. Though thumb sucking can offer comfort to young children, the American Dental Association (ADA) warns that thumb sucking can affect mouth growth and tooth alignment. However, many children who break this habit early can avoid these problems. Parents should encourage their child to stop sucking their thumb by age four. Do this by rewarding kids when they avoid their thumb, rather than punishing when they continue the habit. Remember than many children suck their thumb for comfort. Find other ways to comfort your child when they are feeling anxious.
Using a pacifier affects mouth health in the same way thumb sucking does. When a child vigorously sucks their thumb or a pacifier for prolonged periods, it can affect mouth and teeth growth. The New York Times notes that using a pacifier after the age of five can effect when baby teeth are lost. Using a pacifier isn’t always bad, but it’s important for parents to use one responsibly. Don’t dip the pacifier in sugar or other sweetener. It is recommended that children only use a pacifier at night. Begin to slowly break the pacifier habit early, so your child is completely free of it by the time they are two years old.
Chewing on nails is a nervous habit that can start at any age. In addition to being unhealthy and dirty, biting nails can chip children’s teeth. It can also cause jaw problems, since biting nails requires your jaw to protrude unnaturally. There are many effective and child safe products that can stop nail biting. Look for bitter nail polish at your local pharmacy or favorite online retailer. Just like thumb sucking, using positive reinforcement can help a child stop the bad habit.
Eating snacks isn’t awful on its own, but bad snacking can cause problems for teeth. Foods with a lot of sugar and high acidity levels can wear down tooth enamel and cause decay. Frequent exposure to these ingredients can cause more problems than just eating them once in a while. If your child eats a lot of sugary foods or acidic foods like citrus, try replacing them with other snacks. Vegetables, grains, and nuts are all great options for hungry kids.
Like any habits you teach your kids, helping them avoid bad dental practices is key to a healthy mouth for life. With patience and understanding, good habits will become second nature!