Oral Habit Management
Oral habit may make children feel secure and happy or provide a sense of security at difficult periods.
Thumb Sucking Habit
Prolonged thumb / finger / pacifier sucking habit can create dental problems such as crooked teeth and bite problems. The severity of the dental problems depends on the frequency, duration, intensity and position of the thumb / finger in the child’s mouth.
Most children stop sucking habits on their own between the ages of 2-4. Children should cease thumb sucking by the time their permanent front teeth are ready to erupt (age 6-7) to avoid associated dental problems. In most cases the bite problem resulting from sucking habit improves after early cessation of the habit
Tips for breaking child’s thumb / finger sucking habit:
- Instead of scolding children for thumb sucking, praise them when they are not.
- Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure. Focus on correcting the cause of anxiety, instead of the thumb sucking.
- Reward children when they refrain from sucking during difficult periods.
- Our paediatric dentists can encourage children to stop sucking and explain what could happen if they continue. Parents need to be supportive.
- Reminders such as thumb guards, bandages, gloves, mittens and hot and bitter tasting medicaments may be effective in ceasing both day and night time digit sucking habit.
- Our paediatric dentists may recommend the use of a mouth appliance that discourages sucking habits if other weaning techniques have failed.
Teeth Grinding Habit
Parents are often concerned about the night grinding of teeth (bruxism). Often the first indication is the noise created by the child grinding their teeth during sleep. Alternatively, parent may notice the child’s teeth getting shorter to the dentition. The exact reason for teeth grinding in children is not clear. The proposed cause of teeth grinding involves psychological stress (due to a new environment, changes at home or school etc), allergy, ear infection, or growing pains.
Most children outgrow teeth grinding, mostly decreases between age 6-9 and children tend to stop grinding teeth at around age 9-12. If you suspect your child grinds his/her teeth, discuss this with our paediatric dentists.