1.    THUMB/FINGER SUCKING

 

It is fairly common to find your baby engaging in comfort sucking of his thumb or fingers, especially when drifting off to sleep. This habit needs to be managed if it persist after the age of 5 or 6, when the permanent teeth starts to erupt.

The constant presence of either the thumb or finger within the mouth creates an unnatural environment that has a tendency to push-out the erupting upper permanent incisor teeth and push-in the erupting lower permanent incisor teeth. The space occupied by the thumb or fingers will also prevent the erupting upper and lower incisor teeth from meeting, a condition known as an open bite. This in turn can affect the child’s appearance, ability to chew and speech.

If you’re at your wits end as to how to break your child’s habit, try consulting your dentist. He/she would be able to provide you with a variety of solutions, such as the use of reminders and oral devices which are specifically designed to help your child stop the habit eventually. The good news is that early intervention is highly successful in reversing the developing anomaly, so stop it before it’s too late!

 

2.    NAIL/HAIRCLIP/PENCIL BITING

 

The idiom ‘nail biter or biting’ is often employed to describe hairy situations depicting feelings of anxiousness or nervousness. This is because some people often find nibbling away on their fingernails under such circumstances to be somewhat comforting as well as helpful in dampening their feelings of anxiety.

After adolescence, nail biting is often perceived as being socially unacceptable and can be replaced with chewing of other hard objects such as pencils, hair clips or simply any items that are within easy reach. While such a habit may bring comfort to some extent, another problem is created.

Chronic nail biters may develop dental anomalies, especially at the region of the front teeth, whereby the incisor teeth experience accelerated wear at the edges, or become misaligned. The gum surrounding the affected teeth might become inflamed or even start to recede, especially when coupled with poor oral hygiene, If that is still not sufficient to deter this habit, knowing that the host of bacteria thriving under your fingernails or on the surface of objects that you chew on may lead to oral infections, should be quite the motivating factor to stop this habit!

 

3.    FREQUENT SNACKING ON HIGH SUGAR FOOD

 

Living in a food haven like Singapore, we are tempted everyday by visual feasts of freshly baked pastries, yummy treats or the hunger-inducing scent of food everywhere we go.  As these treats tend to be loaded with fermentable sugars like sucrose or starch, not only are they a threat to our health and expanding waistline, they can be detrimental to our teeth too.

Every time our teeth is exposed to fermentable sugars or starch, dental plaque bacteria breaks them down and produces acid that dissolves away our tooth structure, ultimately resulting in a cavity or decay.

Studies have shown that dental decay is proportionate to the frequency of consumption rather than the amount of sugary treats being consumed. In other words, it means that you’re much better off finishing your bag of cookies at one go or around mealtimes, rather than have it spread out over the course of the day. That is by no means an encouragement to go on a binge frenzy on that bag of sweet treats! Yes, moderation is key.

 

4.    CONSUMPTION OF HIDDEN SUGARS

 

You may think that your healthy eating habits, such as choosing low fat or diet options and being able control that sweet tooth of yours would make you the perfect candidate for the Health Promotion Board’s latest advertisement on healthy eating, but you can never be more mistaken! Now, brace yourself for the truth that you may actually be consuming way more sugar than you think and that’s because sugar comes in many different guises, much of it being hidden in your favourite foods.

This includes that brand of ketchup that tastes so much better than the others on the market, to carbonated sports drinks, fruit juices, teething jellies for toddlers, syrup medications, lozenges, salad dressings, diet foods, breakfast cereals, sweetened dairy like chocolate milk, flavoured yoghurt and the list goes on. These foods are marketed as being healthy or healthier due to their high fiber, high calcium or low fat content but what’s not being disclosed is the astonishing amount of hidden sugars in them too. Often low fat or diet options, sports drinks, flavoured dairy products and salad dressings etc. contain extra sugar in place of fat to improve their palatability. We’re likely to overlook the amount of sugar in these products since they seem healthier and hence we unknowingly consume way more sugar than we think we are. Now perhaps you may want to investigate the real reason why that particular brand of ketchup miraculously tastes so much better than all the others!

 

5.    SMOKING

 

There is a strong body of evidence supporting the link between smoking and oral diseases such as periodontitis (a severe form of gum disease that results in tooth loss), tooth discoloration, delayed healing (following extractions or surgery), oral cancers and the list goes on.

The defence mechanisms in the mouth, which normally works well in fighting against any insults to the oral mucosa, are altered and weakened by the various toxins in cigarettes, predisposing the individual to a myriad of oral diseases. This in turn can have many repercussions on an individual’s ability for effective chewing, speech, appearance and oral health related quality of life. If the warning labels along with pictures depicting the multitude of detrimental effects from smoking is not convincing enough for you to kick this bad habit, hopefully knowing the association between smoking and poor oral health might make you think twice before lighting up.