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Tooth Talk with Dr. T: Caring for children’s teeth

Published: Apr. 28, 2021 at 9:37 AM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Tooth Talk with Dr. T: Caring for children’s teeth

Children can develop a variety of oral habits that can affect the normal development of their teeth and jaws.

These habits can include sucking a thumb or finger, sucking a pacifier, tongue thrusting and grinding teeth, which is called bruxism. It’s perfectly natural for babies and toddlers to suck their thumbs, fingers or pacifiers. Most children stop on their own by age three or four. But if they are still sucking after the permanent teeth start to come in, it could distort the normal growth of the jaw; the upper teeth can protrude; it can cause an open bite and can force the developing teeth out of alignment. If it goes on for many years, it’s likely that orthodontia will be necessary. Helping your child to stop sucking shouldn’t be a struggle. Getting frustrated may exacerbate the problem. Many children respond to a reward system. Encouraging your child to stop sucking could be as easy as having an authority figure, who is not a parent, talk to them about it. If it is proving to be very difficult, your child may be willing to wear a thumb guard to help break the habit. This works best if the child is not forced to wear it, or we may choose to cement a device in their mouth that will make it difficult to suck. bruxism is another oral habit that may require intervention. A child can grind their teeth together while awake or asleep.

This can cause the teeth to wear down. If we diagnose this as a problem, we may make a special mouthguard for your child to wear. Tongue thrusting, also called a reverse swallow, is the improper placement of the tongue during swallowing. It can result in speech difficulties that may require further professional evaluation. We may cement a device to the teeth to help break the habit. For any of these devices to work well, your child must want to break the habit, too. None of these methods should be forced upon your child or used as punishment. Children and adults alike should remember teeth are for chewing food, not for holding pens, pencils, keys, glasses, opening packages or chewing fingernails or ice. Correct oral habits when your children are young, and they can have a lifetime of healthy smiles.

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