Alpharetta, GA – Everyone knows that thumb sucking and pacifier use can negatively affect children’s teeth. But did you know that childhood dental caries are the number one chronic childhood illness? Habits your child has now could negatively affect his oral health and cost you return trips to the pediatric dentist.
“There’s a reason why it’s recommended that children have their first visit to a dentist by the age of 1, or after their first tooth erupts,” says Dr. Nanna Ariaban, and Alpharetta children’s dentist. “That’s because decay can set in even at this young age – in fact, it can be present even before the teeth even come in! Creating healthy habits, and breaking bad ones, is the key to long-lasting, positive oral health for children.”
- Forgetting to wipe baby’s mouth after eating. To prevent the sugars found in formula and breastmilk from settling into a baby’s mouth and beginning the decay process, it’s important to wipe the mouth clean after every feeding, even in the middle of the night.
- Putting a baby to bed with a bottle. Not only can extended bottle use affect the alignment of the teeth, putting a child to bed with a bottle can cause tooth decay. The sugars from the milk or juice in the bottle can settle on the teeth, working to eat away the enamel and cause decay.
- Carrying around a sippy cup full of milk or juice. This is a bad habit that should be broken for the same reason as putting a baby to bed with a bottle. If your child likes to carry a cup around, be sure to fill it with water, and only give milk or juice at mealtimes, when adequate amounts of saliva can wash away the sugars founds in these drinks.
- Using too much fluoride. You might think that since a little bit of fluoride is good for teeth, a lot must be really good. But that’s not the case, and in children, a condition known as fluorosis can set in. This creates permanent white or brown spots on the teeth. Always use fluoride as recommended by your dentist, and oversee your child’s use of fluoride toothpaste.
- Thumb-sucking after permanent teeth have come in. Sucking is a natural reflex in babies that can help comfort them. However, if your child sucks his thumb, help him break the habit before permanent teeth come in. Continuing the habit can alter how the permanent teeth are aligned, leading to difficulty chewing, speaking and the need for orthodontic work later in life. The same is true for extended pacifier use. The best time to stop using a pacifier is around the age of one.
- Chewing on things other than food. Does your child constantly chew on the end of a pencil, or her fingernails? This can introduce bacteria to the mouth, but it can also chip or break the teeth. Between 30 and 60 percent of children and teens bite their nails, and the habit can lead to an increased risk of bruxism. This unintentional teeth grinding can cause serious damage to a child’s teeth, as well as cause facial pain.
- Failing to maintain regular checkups with a pediatric dentist. This one is important, because it takes regular visits with a dentist to help your child understand the importance of properly caring for her teeth. At these twice yearly appointments, your child’s dentist can identify any issues that may be concerning, and help prevent problems before they happen.
“It’s also important for parents to model positive behaviors for their children,” says Dr. Nanna. “If a child sees you sipping on sugary drinks all day, neglecting to brush and floss and failing to visit a dentist, they won’t make oral care a priority. Good, healthy behaviors should come directly from you.”
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