Habit Therapy Solutions

Locations in Edina & Maple Grove to Better Serve You

Behavioral Habit Therapy

A habit is a behavioral pattern that has a tendency to be repeated frequently. We all strive to build, grow and maintain good habits, but we are all guilty of having bad habits as well. Habit therapy is about several bad habits that are detrimental to your child’s oral health, or possibly even yours. We’ll identify the habits that many children naturally participate in and the necessity to terminate those habits. There is a bad habit that goes beyond childhood that may include you as an adult. We’ll look at the habit therapy that can quickly correct these practices and then we’ll look at some good habits that can and should come out of habit therapy.

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The Childhood Thumb sucking Habit

The first and foremost habit that almost every infant and child go through is that of finger or thumb sucking. It is perfectly natural and relaxes the child and is very common. In most children, the thumb sucking stops on its own between the ages of two and four years of age. If this habit persists after that age and past the eruption of their baby teeth then a habit therapy intervention is going to be suggested by Dr. Pan. At the age of six the primary teeth are beginning to erupt. Thumb sucking can cause significant misalignment of the teeth. The jaws at this young age are rather soft and flexible and it’s not difficult with constant pressure of that thumb or finger to deform the soft bone around the front teeth. Depending on the age and how vigorous the child is in sucking his or her thumb the results can cause the upper jaw to thrust forward changing the bite alignment and creating a cross bite. It is important to stop this behavior before it progresses this far.

Bruxism or Grinding of the Teeth

Another bad habit that children suffer from is that of teeth grinding. There are different theories on the cause
related to the grinding at night. One thing that Dr. Pan will be screening for is whether there is sleep disruption
associated with the teeth grinding. If so, there are needs to intervene to help the airway and protection of teeth or
the teeth will physically be ground down.

Tongue Thrusting

This is a habit most common in children but can also be found in adults. The tongue thrust is when the tongue presses too far forward in the mouth. Also, called reverse swallowing or immature swallowing, every infant does it through initial feedings. When the infant begins to lose this reflex it is a natural sign that the child is ready for solid foods. If the reflex persists it can adversely affect the teeth and mouth. A person swallows 1,200 to 2,000 times a day. These swallows create a pressure in your mouth. If that pressure is increased due to the position of the tongue it will push the front teeth forward and cause an open bite. This can happen as an adult as well and habit therapy can correct the habit.

The Habit Therapy Solutions

We will start with behavior and cognitive therapy. Sometimes it only takes a good conversation with Dr. Pan for your child to realize what the problem is and stop the habit. Of course, we need a team approach where family can help positive reinforcement to encourage the child to break the habit. Some malocclusion is self-corrected after stopping the habit.

For patient who sucks finger or thumb, a heavy pressure to the roof of kids’ mouth and the negative pressure created by the motion of sucking can often result in a high vault, narrow mouth that is doomed for more problems, such as crowding, crossbite and facial asymmetry. We have had huge success with Rapid palatal expander, which not only physically occupies the space for the finger or thumb against the roof of the mouth, but also reverts the damage finger sucking has caused to the palate.

Another simple device to correct both thumb sucking and tongue thrusting is called a tongue crib. Once Dr. Pan and yourself consult and evaluate the situation, a tongue crib can be easily fitted and will correct the problem in a very short period of time.

Once x-rays are taken then digital impressions are made of the teeth. A tongue crib or expander is a custom-fabricated appliance made from the model that comes from the dental impression. The appliance is a semicircular set of wires fixed to the upper teeth. The wires prevent the thumb or finger from touching the gums behind the teeth. It removes the enjoyment of sucking the thumb. Basically, it looks like a retainer you wear after braces. The tongue crib will have the same positive results for tongue thrusting.

If you or your child grind your teeth a simple solution that Dr. Pan can help you with is the fitting of a night guard. Visually looking like a sports mouth guard the night guard will create a barrier between the upper and lower teeth to stop any grinding damage and then acting as a cushion it will reduce the stress and relax the muscles that are associated with the temporomandibular joint. This is the joint between your lower jaw and your skull which takes a lot of abuse when grinding.

Good Habits to Focus On

Either of the habit therapy solutions will correct the problem in days but will be used for up to months to break the bad habit. This transition for either a child or a young adult is to then focus on good habits for oral hygiene. If you see your dentist every six months for regular examinations you remain proactive versus getting into a reactive mode. Being proactive takes the stress and anxiety out of the visit. Regular orthodontic visits track progression and growth and regular professional cleaning of the teeth contributes to the health of the teeth and gums. The health industry also strongly suggests you brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes and then floss between your teeth at least once a day. This removes bacteria carrying plaque. There is no avoiding it. 100% of us create this in our mouths every day.

Good Habits, Good Smile

Although habit therapy may have corrected an awkward social habit as well as a physically detrimental one, there is no dollar value to assign to your smile. Correcting those habits saved severe alignment issues. Now it’s your turn to keep that smile in the best shape possible. It is the foundation for your self-esteem and self-confidence. Smile big and conquer the world!

Meet Dr. Pan

Pan Orthodontics Philosophy

To treat our patients as our families and to treat others as how we want to be treated. From your first phone call to the moment your new smile is born, everything in our office is set up to ensure an excellent experience with us. We will always listen to you and improve with your suggestions.

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Our Commitment to You

We will continue to keep up with the ever growing digital technologies to improve your orthodontic experience. We also commit to always help you find the most convenient time for your visit with us.