Habits and Mistakes that Hurt Your Child’s Smile

In an earlier blog post we discussed several foods that can hurt your teeth. From wine to coffee to seemingly innocent ice cubes, the foods you eat can impact your smile. However, dental health extends well beyond what you eat. Children don’t always realize the consequences of their actions, but small habits can have a big effect on your child’s pearly whites. If you want your children to enjoy healthy, happy smiles, teach them to avoid the following mistakes that hurt your child’s smile.

  1. Chewing on Pencils
    Have you ever checked inside your child’s backpack or school desk and found a bunch of chewed pencils inside? While it may seem a little gross to you, it’s pretty common. Many children chew on their pencils to help them concentrate or to alleviate anxiety.

However, this habit, however common, can lead to more than a few gross pencils. Your child’s teeth were designed to chew food, not pencils. As your child chomps down on their writing utensil, they put unnecessary pressure on their teeth which can lead to cracks and fractures. It can even wreck existing dental work.

  1. Sucking on Thumbs and Pacifiers Too Long
    Infants and young children suck on their thumbs for a sense of security and comfort. It often serves as a substitute for a pacifier. While studies suggest that sucking on thumbs or pacifiers can benefit infants, if either practice extends past the time your child’s permanent teeth start to erupt, their teeth could suffer.

When you visit the dentist with your toddler, let them know if they are a thumb sucker or if they use a pacifier. Your NW Calgary dentist can watch your child’s teeth and jawline for any signs of dental problems.
Don’t wait until you notice your child’s first permanent tooth to stop the habit. Once your child hits ages 2-4, start encouraging them to give up the pacifier and the thumb sucking.

  1. Playing Sports without a Mouth Guard
    Never send your child off to football or hockey practice without a mouth guard. All it takes is one good hit for your child to crack a tooth or knock it out completely.
    You can purchase child-sized mouth guards at many sports equipment stores, or you can talk to your dentist about a custom-made mouth guard to protect your little one’s teeth.
  2. Grinding Teeth
    Teeth grinding is often a sign of frustration or stress. It’s a hard habit to break—especially because your child might grind their teeth in their sleep. Teeth grinding can cause small cracks in your child’s tooth enamel and can wear down their molars.

If your child grinds their teeth when they are angry or stressed, don’t yell about the teeth grinding. The more frustrated they get, the more likely they are to continue the practice. Instead, teach them healthy ways to process their stress.
If your child continues to grind their teeth or they grind in their sleep, talk to your dentist in NW Calgary about a mouth guard to wear while they sleep. This will protect their teeth while you try to break the habit.

  1. Using a Hard-Bristled Toothbrush
    Even as an adult you should reach for the soft-bristled toothbrush at the supermarket, and children’s teeth are more sensitive. As your child learns how to properly use a toothbrush, they might brush too hard and actually damage their teeth and enamel.

Soft toothbrushes give your child the clean teeth they need without the damage a medium- or hard-bristled toothbrush might bring.

  1. Opening Things with Teeth
    How often do you skip the scissors and try to open a package with your teeth instead? Most people do it at least once in a while. However, this common habit can crack and chip your teeth.

Your teeth were meant to chew food, help with speech, and enhance your smile. They weren’t built to open bottle caps or tear open packaging.
Your child will replicate this behaviour and use their teeth as tools. Teach them to reach for the scissors when it comes time to open a difficult package.

  1. Biting Their Nails
    As one of the most common bad habits in children and adults, nail biting is a hard practice to break. Though it may seem the only risk to nail biting is short nails, your teeth can suffer as well.

It’s easy for your child to chip a tooth while munching on their nails. It’s common to crack or break the teeth or enamel while biting nails. Furthermore, if your child is a chronic nail biter, the habit could eventually cause your child’s teeth to move out of place.

  1. Avoiding the Dentist

            Of course this one goes just as much for adults, but childhood is a crucial period in any person’s life. It’s the time when the body develops and habits are most easily formed, and getting into good habits early sets people up for life.

Once a child has their permanent teeth, they need to see a dentist just as regularly as an adult — preferably twice a year, but possibly more or less depending on their situation. The health of their teeth, mouth and gums needs to be checked regularly and closely monitored just like we expect from our adult patients.

You can help your child or children here in a few ways: get them used to visiting the dentist from an early age, even as young as 2; never use a trip to the dentist as a threat; and if you are phobic of the dental clinic, do what you can to put on a brave face so your children don’t pick up on your fear. They’re very impressionable!

These mistakes that hurt your child’s smile can wear down your teeth and cause significant damage. Even if your child only has baby teeth, many of these habits can affect the alignment of their permanent ones. Teach your children to respect and care for their teeth and help them root out these bad habits. If you have any questions feel free to contact us.

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