As we know, it’s common for young children to put anything and everything into their mouths. This curiosity about the world around them is normal, and unless it carries into later childhood, is beneficial to development. Habits like nail-biting, thumb sucking, using a pacifier excessively, and tongue thrusting as you swallow all have negative long-term effects on your oral health. What’s more, these bad oral habits can cause disease or other health problems all over the body.
Self Soothing: Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Use
Children are born with a natural sucking reflex, which is why they tend to gravitate towards thumb sucking or get attached to a pacifier as a self-soothing tool. This impulse disappears around the four-month mark, but most children keep the habit for much longer. The natural timeline for thumb suckinf or severe attachment to a pacifier is between six and seven months, or between ages two and four. This is natural, and most children end up growing out of any habitual thumb sucking or pacifier use by age four at the latest. Stopping this habit by age four is ideal, and usually results in no long-term orthodontic issues, because the habit is long gone by the time that permanent teeth begin to grow in.
These self soothing methods are problematic for several reasons. But primarily it is an issue because the pressure applied to teeth through the continuous sucking motion can cause issues with tooth positioning and the growth of the jaw bones. This can later manifest in an open bite, buck teeth, or underdeveloped lower jaw and chin.
Orthodontists usually recommend that children and parents work to break these habits on their own before treatment starts. If that fails, there are appliances that an orthodontist can install that make thumb sucking and self-soothing less pleasurable for the child.
Flossing can sometimes get forgotten or skipped in a nightly oral hygiene routine. But, flossing is actually essential to maintaining oral health, especially throughout orthodontic treatment. Before we get into how to become an expert braces flosser, here’s some more information about why flossing is so critical in the first place.
Flossing is just as important as brushing your teeth to prevent gum disease, cavities, and bad breath. It helps eliminate the accumulation of harmful bacteria and plaque resulting from food particles that get trapped between the teeth and under the gum line. These places are hard for a toothbrush to clean, and with braces or appliances, it’s even harder to make sure your mouth is as clean as it should be!
A common first step of orthodontic treatment is an expander. Expanders, or palatal expanders, are orthodontic appliances that increase the space between the halves of the upper jaw. While that sounds scary and painful, expanders are very common and relatively painless! Many young, growing orthodontic patients have expanders, and they can help make sure you don’t have to undergo surgery later!
One of our most common questions from patients is “What can I eat with my braces?” or “What foods do I have to give up?” and we have a few simple guidelines to share. Getting braces is a big change, and on top of the wires, brackets, or Invisalign trays, there’s a whole new set of habits you must get used to. Luckily, we’re here to help and answer any questions you may have during treatment! If you keep these in mind, your smile and diet will be happy and healthy!
Parents are usually well-versed in getting their child to the dentist early on. Establishing oral health routines for your toddlers is standard – but many parents have questions about getting their child set up with orthodontic treatment. What about their first visit to the orthodontist? When should they go? Is my child too young for the orthodontist? Is my child too young for braces? Luckily, all these questions have simple answers.
The Lucky Number Seven
Age seven is the magic number for a first orthodontist visit. This is because, at seven, your child’s first set of molars should have come in. This first set of molars erupts between ages six and seven and are in the lower jaw and do not replace any baby teeth.
The seven-year molars are a good indicator of future dental issues once they have fully grown in. Seeing your child right after this growth occurs allows your orthodontist to get a more accurate picture of your child’s mouth and treatment plan than if they were seen before the molars grew in but give them enough time to address possible issues before it’s too late.
Our mouths are full of bacteria. These bacteria help to form plaque on our teeth. Brushing and flossing help to get rid of plaque. The plaque that is not removed by these practices hardens and forms “tartar” that brushing doesn’t clean. This tartar can only be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist.
Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is an infection of the tissues that hold your teeth in place. The culprit for this disease is usually poor brushing and flossing habits. These poor habits allow plaque – a sticky film of bacteria – to build up on the teeth and harden. If the disease worsens, it can lead to sore, bleeding gums, painful chewing problems, and even tooth loss.
There are risk factors for gum disease, but smoking is the most significant. Other risk factors include hormonal changes in women, diabetes, and medications that lessen the flow of saliva.