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Bracing Life: Breaking Bad Oral Habits

Let’s face it, we all have habits. Some are good, like always checking twice that you’ve locked your house or car, or getting up early to hit the gym every morning. Others are not so good like smoking, biting your nails or always eating a bag of cheezies while watching the ballgame (Busted!). However, the third category of habit can actually affect the growth and development of your child’s face and mouth. These are Oral Habits.

Oral habits consist of three main types. First, there are digital habits like thumb and finger sucking. Second, there are swallowing habits also known as tongue thrusting. And finally, there are breathing habits such as mouth breathing.

Why are all of these habits a concern? Because growth and development of the mouth follow the old adage that “Form Follows Function”. Simply put, anything abnormal in function leads to abnormal form. Using the example of thumb sucking as the abnormal function, the form that follows is one of increased overbite (“buck teeth”), open bite (no overlap of the top and bottom teeth) and crossbite (top teeth inside of bottom teeth). These abnormal forms can have a great effect on chewing ability, tooth wear, and appearance.

The second habit, tongue thrusting, is when the tongue pushes forward against the teeth instead of moving to the roof of the mouth and using the lips to create a seal necessary for swallowing. What results again is overbite, open bite and tooth wear.

The third habit, mouth-breathing, is less straightforward as it may be accompanied by airway issues such as allergies or enlarged adenoids. Nonetheless, facial growth may be significantly impacted by mouth breathing and requires checking with your orthodontist or ear nose and throat (ENT) specialist.

If you feel that your child has any of the previous oral habits it’s time to have it checked out. Like with any habit, the longer it goes, the more difficult it is to break.

In the next month’s issue, we’ll look at the common treatments and appliances used by orthodontists to correct these habits. Until then, does anyone know what time the ballgame starts and where are my cheezies?

Doctors Hill and Gross have the experience to help craft beautiful smiles for all manner of patients, both children and adults.


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