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How to Avoid & Break Children's Bad Dental Habits

Put Your Child on the Right Path to Good Oral Health


Updated: March 27, 2007

While it is important to maintain good oral habits in children, it is equally important to understand and break the bad habits. Going to bed with a bottle, thumb / finger sucking and swallowing toothpaste are some examples of bad dental habits in children.

Going to Bed With a Bottle

The result of sending a child to bed with a bottle of anything other than water is severe tooth decay (cavities). The sugar from the fluid in the bottle stays on the teeth for long periods of time causing the bacteria on the child’s teeth and the sugar to mix. This mixture forms a type of acid that eats through the enamel and makes cavities. Dentists sometimes use the term “bottle Mouth” to describe the mouth of a child that has been sent to bed repeatedly with a bottle. This is not an easy habit to break, but it can be done. If your child is taking a bottle to bed, try diluting the liquid down a little each night until the end result is just water.

Thumb / Finger Sucking

Thumb and /or finger sucking is a bad habit because it could cause the child to have buck teeth, which could eventually require orthodontic treatment. Most children will stop this habit on their own between ages 2 and 4, however, it is much easier to break any habit when it first begins.

Swallowing Toothpaste

Getting your child to brush their teeth everyday is a major accomplishment for both the child and the parent. A bad habit that children generally pick up is using too much toothpaste and swallowing a lot of it. The result is too much fluoride is ingested into the child’s body. This can cause a condition known as Fluorosis, where white or brown spots can form on the teeth in severe cases.

This is actually a bad habit that is fairly easy to break. Try spending some time with the child explaining that a pea size drop of toothpaste is adequate and teach them how to brush and rinse and spit properly. After a few times, they will generally get the hang of it.

Always discuss any concerns you might have with your child’s dentist. Understanding and breaking these habits will put you and your child on the right path to establishing a good oral hygiene regimen.

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