Little girl with sippy cup

Anyone who as watched over or raised a baby or toddler knows that the mouth is one of the key ways that small children explore and learn about the world. You have to keep a close eye on little ones to make sure they don’t put anything and everything in their mouths! But even once this exploratory phase is over, there are a few bad oral habits you should watch out for to ensure your child doesn’t miss out on a strong, healthy smile in the future.

Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is a self-soothing behavior that comes from the natural suckling instinct. However, if this habit continues once a child’s teeth start to come in, it can cause problems. For one, a child’s hands can harbor bacteria that wouldn’t otherwise find their way into the mouth if they didn’t suck their thumb. Keeping hands out of the mouth can keep microbes from being transferred. In addition, the constant presence of a thumb between a child’s upper and lower jaws can affect the position of the bite and alignment of the teeth. Putting a stop to a thumb sucking habit may prevent the need for orthodontics such as braces in the future.

Using Teeth as a Tool

This is a habit that grownups are guilty of too, and children often learn it from watching us. Opening a package with your teeth when your hands just don’t seem to be strong enough is just asking for a tooth injury. Rather than putting teeth at risk, adults should use scissors or pliers, and should instruct children to ask for help when they can’t open something. Chances are if they can’t open something with their hands, they’re not supposed to be opening it at all!

Free Access to Sugary Drinks

While it’s true that milk and many fruit juices contain important vitamins that keep kids healthy as they grow, they also contain lots of sugar. In many cases, the high sugar content can outweigh the benefits of the vitamins when juice consumption is not moderated. Giving a child a sippy cup full of juice or milk may temporarily calm or satisfy them, but constantly exposing teeth to sugar will cause tooth decay in the long run. Limit juice or milk to mealtimes and only provide sippy cups of plain water in between meals.

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