Parents have a lot to worry about when it comes to raising their kids. Every step you take can have an impact on your child’s health, both mentally and physically. However, many parents are unaware that their actions can also affect their child’s dental health.
There are many habits kids can pick up — and then parents ignore — that can lead to dental issues. Here we review the most common practices that can damage teeth and how to overcome them.
Putting Baby to Bed with a Bottle
While bottle-feeding a baby often leads to your little one falling asleep with the bottle in their mouth, removing the bottle is crucial. Parents who allow their kids to go to bed with a bottle filled with milk or juice should stop the habit now.
The problem with this habit is that the liquid sits in their mouth while they sleep. This can make your child more prone to tooth decay and cavities. Milk might seem to be a healthy choice, but it still contains sugars that can cause dental issues. This bacteria remains in your child’s mouth overnight, feeding on the milk’s sugars and creating harmful acids that lead to tooth decay.
The best way to avoid this habit is never to allow it to start. Even if your child is bottle-fed, remove the bottle from their mouth when they fall asleep and avoid giving them bottles at night for anything other than feeding.
This habit offers comfort to children who have an instinct to suck from the day they are born. While thumb sucking is expected and safe for babies, as your child gets older, it should be discouraged.
If your child continues to suck their thumb, the sucking interferes with the development of their jaw, the shape and roof of the mouth, and how their teeth grow. This can lead to the need for costly and uncomfortable treatments — such as braces — to address misalignments or special retainers to help treat malformed palates.
Your child can also develop speech impediments, especially when trying to pronounce d’s and t’s. Discouraging thumb sucking as soon as possible will help avoid these issues.
A helpful tip is to wrap your child’s thumbs with bandages or place hand socks on them at night. If this doesn’t work, you can speak to our team about possible appliances or medications that can be used to help stop sucking.
Not Spitting Out Toothpaste
While many kids will fight parents on brushing their teeth, others enjoy it because they love the taste of toothpaste. Some kids will even swallow toothpaste, which can be dangerous.
Hopefully, your child is brushing with a fluoride toothpaste. While these contain safe amounts of fluoride, the product is not intended to be swallowed. When kids eat toothpaste, they get too much fluoride. This leads to spotting that discolours your child’s teeth. This is known as fluorosis.
Many cases of fluorosis are relatively mild and not very noticeable. However, in some instances, the mottled appearance can be quite distinct. This can interfere with your child’s confidence.
The only treatments are cosmetic whitening, bonding, or veneers. In extreme cases, some patients might even opt for crowns. This is a costly punishment for a habit that can easily be avoided. Make sure you show your child how to spit out their toothpaste to develop this habit.
Not Having Regular Dental Visits
We can’t stress enough how important it is for your child to view regular dental checkups as a fact of life. From the appearance of your child’s first tooth, you should ensure you schedule regular dental appointments. This creates lifelong habits that will help them continue to enjoy dental health into adulthood.
Dental checkups are the best way for anyone to maintain optimum health. The earlier a child has their first appointment, the more likely they will continue to do so for life. We make your child feel welcome and at ease from the very first moment we meet them. We are here to answer their questions and make it as easy as possible, so they do not develop a fear of dental treatments. In this case, forming the habit of regular dental checkups is a good thing!
Biting Their Nails
A common issue with kids who suffer from anxiety, nail-biting is also a problem for bored kids. It can begin as early as the age of three and worsens as your child gets older. This is risky for teeth as it can cause cracks, chips and wear of the enamel. In younger children, they can also cause gaps in the front teeth. Some tips to help your child stop biting:
- Gently encourage them to stop whenever you see them biting
- Use a reward system to offer something to motivate them to stop biting
- Use a nail-biting nail polish that tastes bitter to discourage biting
If you are unsuccessful at helping your child stop biting their nails, you can speak to your pediatrician or our team for ideas to help.
Bruxism – Teeth Grinding
Like nail-biting, teeth grinding can be a sign of anxiety. Grinding and clenching can lead to tooth wear and breakage and other symptoms such as tooth sensitivity, headaches, and temporomandibular joint disorder issues.
This is a tough one to tackle, as it is usually done at night without your child realizing it. If you notice your child is grinding their teeth, speak to our team about your options.
Offering your child too much sugar can lead to lifelong addictions to unhealthy food choices. Choosing healthy snacks and foods from the day they start eating solids is the best way to avoid this issue. It’s not news that sugary diets lead to tooth decay. Eroded enamel can also lead to teeth sensitivity, teeth staining and loss of proper mouth function. Remember that this doesn’t just mean candy. Many foods, including fizzy drinks and fruit juices, are packed with sugar.
Opting for healthier choices from day one helps create healthy eating habits for life.The sooner you can break your child of bad habits, the healthier they will feel both in mind and body.
For more information about the everyday habits that can damage your children's teeth and our children’s dentistry, call Guelph Family Dentistry at (519) 265-5115 or contact us here.