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The 5 dental habits you would not want your child to have

Teaching your child to rinse their mouth after every meal is probably one of the best oral habits

By Dr Diksha Tahilramani Batra

A million questions cross your mind as a parent when you don’t know what to make of your child’s sometimes atypical dental behaviours and habits. Let’s demystify the ones that should bother you and the ones you can ignore and allow your child to safely grow out of.

* Thumbsucking

This is the worst habit, as it tends to damage the teeth and jaws. The reasons for sucking the thumb may be many, but the primary one could be craving for love, affection and security. In addition to trying to train your child to discontinue, supplementing them psychologically can help.

Habit breakers such as thumb guards, bitter liquids and a dental consultation to assess any damage to oral tissues are all parts of treating and breaking the habit.

* Tongue thrusting

This habit can be hard to notice. Tongue thrusting happens when the child swallows and their tongue — instead of adapting to the normal position on the palate — comes forward and pushes against the teeth. The habit is harmless, until years of swallowing in this wrong manner causes a shift in tooth position.

Training the child consciously by giving them a position to place their tongue may work for older children. A simple habit-breaking appliance can be worn in the mouth, called the tongue crib. This can hold the tongue in place and help it acquire a new swallowing position. The habit is harder to correct in younger kids, so should only be identified and kept under observation.

* Teeth grinding

This is fairly common among children whose parents are prone to grinding their teeth either in the day or at night. Sometimes, it is accompanied by an alarming sound of gnashing that can send any parent into panic mode. The reasons can be genetic predisposition, or mis-positioned teeth, or even deficiencies and worms in the gut.

This can be harder for a parent to handle independently, if it has advanced and the grinding is frequent and audible. Depending on the age of the child, various treatments can be instituted. The habit is largely involuntary and may even go undetected if mild.

* Bottle to bed

Many children grow up with the habit of a comfort feed at night and some parents think of it as a harmless habit. But, it can cause baby-bottle decay — a lethal condition for the child where the majority of the teeth get softened by rapid action of decay causing bacteria leading to possibilities of pain and infections in the mouth , an uncomfortable experience and several premature dental treatments.

The best prevention is to keep the bottle away at night and if you have no other choice, follow it up with water and ensure the wiping and cleaning of teeth after.

* Frequent snacking

While frequent snacking may not be bad for your child, the food sticking to their teeth for numerous hours can cause decay or gum problems.

Teaching your child to rinse their mouth after every meal is probably one of the best oral habits.

Multiple harmless habits like lip biting, pencil chewing or putting everything in the mouth, can be things you can allow your child to grow out of.

(The writer is a prosthodontist and implantologist with a decade of experience in pain-free dentistry)

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