Posts for: March, 2014
Thumb or finger sucking is a normal activity for babies and young children — they begin the habit while still in the womb and may continue it well into the toddler stage. Problems with tooth development and alignment could arise, however, if the habit persists for too long.
It’s a good idea, then, to monitor your child’s sucking habits during their early development years. There are also a few things you can do to wean them off the habit before it can cause problems down the road.
- Eliminate your child’s use of pacifiers by eighteen months of age. Studies have shown that the sucking action generated through pacifiers could adversely affect a child’s bite if they are used after the age of 2. Weaning your child off pacifiers by the time they are a year and a half old will reduce the likelihood of that occurring.
- Encourage your child to stop thumb or finger sucking by age 3. Most children tend to stop thumb or finger sucking on their own between the ages of 2 and 4. As with pacifiers, if this habit continues into later childhood it could cause the upper front teeth to erupt out of position and tip toward the lip. The upper jaw also may not develop normally.
- Replace your child’s baby bottle with a training cup around one year of age. Our swallowing mechanism changes as we grow; introducing your child to a training cup at around a year old will encourage them to transition from “sucking” to “sipping,” and make it easier to end the thumb or finger sucking habit.
- Begin regular dental visits for your child by their first birthday. The Age One visit will help you establish a regular habit of long-term dental care. It’s also a great opportunity to evaluate your child’s sucking habits and receive helpful advice on reducing it in time.
While your child’s thumb or finger sucking isn’t something to panic over, it does bear watching. Following these guidelines will help your child leave the habit behind before it causes any problems.
If you would like more information on children’s thumb-sucking and its effect on dental development, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Thumb Sucking in Children.”
She received an academy award for best supporting actress in Chicago (2002); she regularly stars in big Hollywood films like Oceans Twelve and Side Effects. And she’s been named one of People magazine’s “most beautiful people” of the year… a total of five times so far. According to big-screen heartthrob Antonio Banderas, “She has one of the most beautiful close-ups in cinematography today.”
So would it surprise you to learn that Catherine Zeta-Jones had a little help from cosmetic dentistry along the way? In her childhood, the actress said, “I was teased because I had a really flat-looking nose, and before I got braces, my teeth used to stick out a bit.” According to press reports, she has also had various dental treatments to make her teeth look whiter and more even.
Because she’s been in the spotlight since a young age, Zeta-Jones had her cosmetic dental treatments performed over a number of years. But if you’re unhappy with your smile right now, there’s no need to wait: Getting a complete “smile makeover” starts with a consultation at our office. How does it work?
We begin with a thorough dental exam to check for any underlying issues, and some basic questions, including: What do you (and don’t you) like about your smile? Are your teeth as even and as white as you’d like them to be? Is your smile too “gummy”, or do the teeth seem too large or small in proportion to your facial features? Do gaps, chips or cracked teeth detract from your appearance?
Next, working together with you, we can develop a plan to correct any perceived problems in your smile. We’ve already mentioned two of the most common ways to enhance a smile that’s less than perfect: orthodontics for straightening crooked teeth, and whitening treatments for a more brilliant smile. If your teeth are otherwise healthy, both treatments can be performed at any time — in fact, more and more of today’s orthodontic patients are adults.
Other treatments that are often used include cosmetic bonding to repair small to moderate chips or cracks in teeth; crowns (caps) to restore teeth with more extensive structural damage; and veneers to remedy a number of defects — including discoloration, small irregularities in tooth spacing, and even teeth that appear too long or too short. Plus, we have even more procedures designed to remedy specific dental issues.
Will having a better smile get you on the “most beautiful people” list? We can’t say for sure. But we think you’ll feel better about yourself… and people will notice.
If you would like more information on smile makeovers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor articles “The Impact of a Smile Makeover” and “Great Expectations — Perceptions in Smile Design.”
While most orthodontic treatment doesn’t commence until a child is older or entering adolescence, it’s still a good idea for children as young as 6 to undergo an orthodontic evaluation. An early orthodontic evaluation may reveal emerging problems with the child’s bite and jaw development, and help inform the best course of treatment when the time is right.
A specialty within dentistry, orthodontics focuses on the study and treatment of malocclusions or poor bites. Orthodontists are most concerned with the interaction of the face, jaw and teeth, and whether these structures are developing normally and in the right position.
It’s possible to detect the beginning stages of a malocclusion as a child’s permanent teeth begin to erupt, sometime between ages 6 and 12. Children at this stage may begin to experience crowding of the teeth (or the opposite, too much space between teeth), protruding teeth, extra or missing teeth or problems with jawbone development. While these tend to be congenital (inherited conditions), some problems can be caused by excessive thumb-sucking, mouth breathing, or dental disease stemming from tooth decay. In some cases, “interceptive” orthodontic treatment might be necessary during this early period to improve the chances that future treatment for a malocclusion or poor jaw development will be successful.
An early orthodontic evaluation should be undertaken no later than age 7 to be most effective. It’s also advisable to have regular checkups beginning around the child’s first birthday to spot developing teeth and jaw problems even when only primary teeth are present. The orthodontic evaluation itself takes advantage of an orthodontist’s trained eye to locate more subtle problems with teeth and jaw growth. Knowing this well in advance can make it easier in the long run when orthodontic treatment takes place when they’re older. Waiting until after the full emergence of permanent teeth and further jaw and facial development to evaluate for treatment could make it more difficult or even impossible to correct malocclusion issues found later.
The most effective dental care starts early in life. Not only treating immediate problems but also anticipating those that will require treatment later will help ensure your child will have healthy teeth for life.
If you would like more information on childhood orthodontic evaluations, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Early Orthodontic Evaluation.”
One of the most common parental concerns is the habit of many children, even late into childhood, to suck their thumbs or fingers. Many parents have asked us, “Could this affect their teeth?”
The answer, unfortunately, is yes — thumb sucking can contribute to a malocclusion (bad bite) that could eventually require orthodontic treatment. Before making any assumptions, however, we need to understand the bigger picture.
To begin with, infants have a different swallowing mechanism than adults and older children. When you as an adult swallow, you'll notice the tip of your tongue positions itself just above the back of the top front teeth. An infant, however, will thrust their tongue between their upper and lower jaw as they swallow (also known as an infantile swallowing pattern or primary tongue thrust). The infant normally begins changing to an adult swallowing pattern when their primary (baby) teeth begin to erupt.
However, if a child's swallowing transition is slower than normal and the tongue rests between the jaws for a longer duration, it can inhibit the full eruption of teeth, believed to be the main cause of an open bite (a gap between the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are shut). The thumb during sucking resting between the teeth can have the same effect.
Thumb sucking may not necessarily lead to a malocclusion — for example, an abnormally developing jawbone could be the culprit. If prolonged thumb sucking does become a concern, however, there are steps we can take to reduce the impact of the habit. We can install a thin metal “tongue crib” behind the upper and lower incisors that will not only discourage thumb sucking, but also help retrain the tongue not to rest between the upper and lower teeth. There are also exercise routines known as orofacial myofunctional therapy (OMT) that can retrain specific muscles in the mouth to encourage more normal chewing and swallowing patterns.
These steps may not prevent future orthodontic treatment, but they could reduce its extent. The key is regular dental checkups and consultation to ensure your child's teeth and bite are developing normally.
If you would like more information on the effects of chronic thumb sucking on the mouth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”