Break Those Bad Habits

Dr. Michael Stosich talks three unhealthy oral habits in children.GRAYSLAKE AND SKOKIE, ILLINOIS — While it may be cute to watch your little girl suck her thumb to soothe herself when she’s a baby, this habit becomes unhealthy if it is allowed to continue beyond about age 4.

Thumb sucking isn’t the only bad habit that needs breaking in young children. Finger sucking, mouth breathing and tongue thrusting all can usher in a plethora of future oral health complications if uncorrected.

We promote orthodontic evaluation by age 7 here at iDentity Orthodontics, and these unhealthy oral habits are part of the reason. All of these habits have the potential to cause malocclusions in children. Only by conducting a comprehensive evaluation can we determine if your child’s poor oral habits may lead to future complications.

The Dangers of Thumb/Finger Sucking
Most children will outgrow the thumb/finger sucking habit on their own between ages 2 and 4, according to the American Dental Association. Aggressive sucking habits can adversely affect the way your child’s adult teeth erupt, and continuing the bad habit could increase their risk of developing an overbite, infections and other dental problems, says Dr. Michael Stosich, a Grayslake and Skokie orthodontist.

There are lots of remedies you can find online to help your child break the habit. If it persists, we have an appliance we can install in your child’s mouth that will take away the pleasant sensation they get from thumb/finger sucking.

Mouth Breathing Mayhem
A child may breathe through her mouth instead of her nose if she has enlarged adenoids and tonsils, a deviated septum, asthma or nasal polyps, to name a few examples. Finding the cause and correcting it is imperative because prolonged mouth breathing can alter your child’s facial aesthetics. It can lead to the development of a long, narrow face, underdeveloped cheeks and a narrow palate.

If identified early, orthodontic treatment can help prevent or correct related problems. “Early” is the key word here, because most forward and lateral upper jaw growth is completed by age 9, and most lower law growth is complete by age 12.

Tongue Thrusting Troubles
Tongue thrust is the term we give to an orofacial muscular imbalance, and it describes the act of the tongue protruding through your front teeth when swallowing, speaking and even while at rest. This is a common condition in children that they typically outgrow by age 4 to 6.

“If it continues beyond this age, your child’s bad habit could cause orthodontic issues,” says Dr. Stosich, who offers affordable braces for children and adults.

Treatment for tongue thrust can involve an appliance similar to a mouth guard, or a more permanent option that Dr. Stosich can remove and adjust as needed.

In some instances, your child may need to meet with a therapist for oral habit training, which helps retrain the muscles associated with swallowing by changing your child’s swallowing pattern.

If you are concerned that your child exhibits any of these habits, call our office to schedule a consultation. We can tell you if the habit is something that would benefit from treatment.

© 2013 Dr. Michael Stosich. Authorization to post is granted, with the stipulation that Dr. Michael Stosich is credited as sole source. Linking to other sites from this article is strictly prohibited, with the exception of herein imbedded links.

AUTHOR: Michael Stosich

Michael S. Stosich, DMD, MS, MS, is a specialist orthodontist for children and adults with subspecialty expertise in robotically assisted orthodontics. Dr. Stosich serves as the orthodontic director at the University of Chicago's cleft lip and palate clinic and craniofacial anomalies clinic, which treats complex pediatric craniofacial anomalies.