Young children often put anything and everything in their mouths. Unless it develops into bad habits that carry into later childhood, this curiosity is beneficial. Long-term oral health can be negatively affected by habits like nail-biting, thumb sucking, excessive use of pacifiers, and tongue thrusting as you swallow.
Biting your nails is bad for your general and oral health because you’re introducing bacteria and dirt into your mouth. The germs and grime you ingest while biting your nails can cause illness and the consistent biting is hard on your enamel. While it certainly isn’t a good habit to keep up because of the dirt and germs residing under your nails, there are many more negative effects.
Chewing your nails results in unnecessary wear on your teeth. It weakens the enamel and can even lead to chipping or the teeth becoming crooked. When you have braces, chewing your nails slows down orthodontic treatment. In addition to weakening the roots and making the teeth susceptible to movement, biting your nails can also displace brackets and wires. This makes your braces less effective and can result in more appointments to fix appliances or brackets.
Thumb Sucking and Excessive Pacifier Use
It is natural for children to use thumb-sucking or pacifiers for self-soothing because of their natural sucking reflex. After four months, the impulse disappears, but most children will retain it for a long time. Usually, children grow out of thumb sucking or pacifier use by age four. This habit should be stopped by four to avoid long-term orthodontic problems.
By sucking continuously, the teeth can be pushed out of position and the jaw bones may not grow properly. In later years, this can manifest itself in an open bite, buck teeth, or an underdeveloped lower jaw and chin.
Children and parents are usually advised to break these habits themselves before treatment begins. An orthodontist can install some appliances if this is ineffective.
Tongue thrusting should cease on its own, just like thumb sucking. When someone thrusts their tongue, it is related to how they swallow. When young children swallow, their tongues press against their teeth. As they grow, their tongue should apply pressure to the roof of their mouth during swallowing.
It is possible for some people to never get rid of swallowing with their tongue on their teeth. Orthodontists refer to this as tongue thrusting, or orofacial muscular imbalance. In the long run, tongue thrusting can lead to tooth displacement and an open bite. Orthodontic treatment can only be effective if non-orthodontic issues are addressed. These underlying issues must continue to be treated beyond orthodontic treatment as well to maintain the work your orthodontist has done. This of course means wearing your retainer, but also means that your dentist or another doctor may address a second issue with you.