Oral Habits and How They Affect Your Entire Dentition

Oral habits are commonly observed mainly among babies, young children, and in adults as well. Not only do these habits cause unsightly damage to the teeth and/or jaws, but they can also be expensive to repair or dangerous if left untreated.

That is why it is important to address any undesirable oral habit as soon as possible. Intervention can be something as simple as patient education and behavior modification but oftentimes, the use of dental appliances is necessary.

With all these in mind, we have come up with this list of most common oral habits and why they should be discontinued if you want to keep that nice, sparkly smile.

Thumb Sucking:

Thumb sucking, or finger sucking in general, is the most common oral habit especially in young children although they tend to outgrow it at about age five.

This habit, especially if it has persisted for long, can cause problems such as (but not limited to) open bite of the front teeth, flared upper incisors, tipping of lower incisors, misalignment of the future permanent teeth, and deformities of the roof of the mouth.

These problems vary in intensity, and are dependent on factors such as the aggressiveness, duration, and frequency of the habit and the position of the thumb in the mouth.

Lip Sucking:

Like thumb sucking, lip suck is another common oral habit in young children.

It often results to chapped, inflamed lips. Severe lip sucking, wherein the lower lip is tucked behind the upper front teeth, causes the upper front teeth to flare out and the lower front teeth to tilt towards the tongue side. This results to these teeth not being in contact with each other when the mouth closes.

Tongue Thrusting:

Tongue thrusting, otherwise known as reverse or immature swallow, is characterized by the tongue moving in a forward position towards the upper central incisors during swallowing.

Infants exhibit this habit up to six months of age at which point they lose this reflex to give them the ability to chew solid foods. But if it persists, tongue thrusting can lead to open bite and other orthodontic problems.

Bruxism:

Bruxism pertains to the non-functional grinding of teeth, which usually occurs during sleep. It affects patients of all ages.

Children, in particular, also grind their teeth even when awake. This habit is caused by a myriad of factors, which include:

1) systemic factors like stress, nutritional deficiencies, metabolic disorders, allergies, mental retardation, and musculoskeletal problems,

2) local factors include high restorations that interfere with biting and chewing.

Grinding erodes the tooth enamel and therefore results to increased susceptibility to decay and faster wear of teeth. It also leads to jaw pain.

Chewing Ice:

Munching on ice cubes may seem like a harmless habit, but unfortunately it can crack, chip the enamel of your tooth. That’s because although the enamel is the hardest substance on our body, it is not designed for crunching ice.

Nail Biting:

Biting on something that you’re not supposed to bite is not good for your teeth. Your nails are no exception. Aside from potentially cracking or chipping the tooth enamel and restorations (if any), it can also expose you to the bacteria that thrives under your nails. Infection can occur, and while it is not necessarily bad for your teeth, it is bad for your overall health.