According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 19% of children ages two to 19 have untreated cavities. Despite their bad reputation, however, dental caries aren’t the only (or even the worst) offender to children’s oral hygiene. As a parent, there is a number of issues you should watch out for when it comes to your childs teeth, including misalignment. As baby teeth fall out, and adult teeth come in, bad habits can lead to permanent damage. Let’s take a look at a few of these behaviors that can ruin a child’s bite.
Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Use
Few sights are more heartwarming than your child sucking her thumb or gently nursing a pacifier to soothe herself to sleep. This act is a natural reflex for little ones, but beyond a certain age, it can do more damage than good. Dentists recommend putting a stop to this behavior by age four, as vigorous sucking can severely alter a child’s bite. The constant presence of a thumb or pacifier while the two front teeth erupt can cause them to grow in improperly. In a normal bite, the upper teeth will slightly overlap the lower teeth; however, sucking habits often create what is known as an “open bite.” In this improper bite pattern, the back molars touch when the jaws are closed, but the front teeth do not.
Bruxism – teeth grinding and jaw clenching – is prevalent among adults. While it is also fairly common in children, it often goes away on its own. A study by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry found that 38% of children ages 17 and below experienced bruxism. Grinding can severely damage a childs teeth, gums, and jaw, causing temporomandibular joint disorders. Unfortunately, many sufferers don’t know that they’re doing it, as it often occurs during sleep. Spend some time watching your child sleep to catch them in the act or listen for complaints of sore jaws, pain while chewing, and headaches or earaches.
Proper dental care can begin as soon as your baby’s teeth are visible, but the eruption of permanent teeth is a crucial time in a child’s development. Make sure you are catching these bad habits early to avoid major issues with teeth alignment down the road. To learn more about oral health and how to ensure a healthy bite, reach out to your local pediatric dentist office today.