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Breaking Oral Habits

Non-nutritive sucking is considered normal in the first few years of life. Thumb or digit sucking and use of a pacifier may be soothing to your child. The frequency, duration and strength of the sucking reflex can cause alterations in jaw shape and tooth position. The severity of these changes will determine whether self correction will occur with cessation of the habit and the eruption of the permanent teeth or if orthodontic intervention will be necessary in the future.

One should consider the following when selecting a pacifier:
•  It should be made from non-toxic material
•  It should be one piece with a soft, symmetrical nipple
•  It should have a contoured shield which is wider than your child's mouth.
•  The shield should have air vents
•  It should be dishwasher safe to allow for easy frequent washing
•  It should be the proper size for your child

Safe Pacifier Usage:
•  Do not tie a pacifier around your child's neck, hand or crib
•  occasionally, inspect the pacifier for signs of over use
•  Do not use the pacifier to delay meals
•  One should never dip the pacifier in sweet substances
•  One should never substitute a bottle nipple as it is a choking hazard

Thumb or Digit Sucking
The need to suck is present even before we are born. Many will suck their thumb for a short time and will self wean before or during the preschool years. If your child does not self wean by 5 years old, suggestions for stopping will be discussed with you. It is important to not 'pressure' your child into quitting; rather, offer words of praise when the child is not sucking and allow stopping to be their decision, suggest activities that will engage your child if the thumb sucking habit is now due to boredom. Remember, changes in family structure and dynamics or changes to routine may contribute to continuation of the habit.

Studies report that 15-33% of children grind their teeth. It can begin when a child is very young when the nerve/muscle complex is immature and will usually disappear as your child matures and begins to get more permanent teeth. Grinding while sleeping or during a change in depth of sleep is most common. Most grinding will stop without intervention.

Nail/Lip Biting
For most biting the nails, cheeks and/or lips is just a bad habit. When this is constant and severe, these biting habits may be a sign of anxiety or compulsive behavior. Treatment may include behavioral therapy to help your child stop the biting habit.

Mouth Breathing
We all experience periods where we are unable to breathe through our nose. Many times this change from nasal to mouth breathing occurs secondary to a nasal airway obstruction. This can be from allergies, illness, large adenoid tissue and anatomical variations.

Some professionals debate the effects that chronic mouth breathing may have on the growth of the face. It is believed that chronic mouth breathing may result in a longer and more narrow face. We do know that mouth breathing can dry the mouth out which contributes to bad breath and makes it easier for plaque to accumulate on teeth.


Custom Made Mouthguards
Participation in sports is an excellent way to maintain a level of fitness, learn to become a team player, boost self esteem and confidence. Unfortunately, all sports have an associated risk of injuries to the face and mouth due to falls and collisions.

The American Dental Association (ADA) has reported that an athlete is 60 times more likely to have an injury to the teeth when not wearing a protective mouthguard. The ADA also reports that greater than 3.5 million children 14 years of age and younger are injured while playing sports or participating in recreational activities.

What Does an Athletic Mouthguard Do?
Mouthguards help cushion the teeth and mouth from traumatic injury for both adults and children. Often, mouthguards are required for youth playing contact sports such as football, boxing, hockey and lacrosse. We see many dental injuries in patients participating in recreational and organized sports such as basketball, baseball, bicycling, gymnastics, martial arts, skateboarding, soccer and volleyball and, therefore, encourage the use of a mouthguard for all these types of activities.

A mouthguard is a molded plastic material that is usually placed on the top teeth and acts like a 'shock absorber' to help prevent injuries to the teeth and face. Just like helmets are worn to protect against injury, use of a mouthguard can help prevent injury or decrease the severity of the injury.

Mouthguards Worn at Night
Patients that have a grinding habit while sleeping may request a guard that can be worn at nighttime. These guards can be custom made or a store bought athletic mouthguard that you modify at home to fit into your child's mouth.

Eastside Pediatric Dental Group | | (425) 392-4048
185 NE Gilman Blvd., Issaquah, WA 98027



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