Abnormal oral habits can cause harmful tooth movements and growth patterns of the face and jaws. Common habits, such as mouth breathing, lip, nail and cheek biting, tongue sucking/thrusting, thumb or finger sucking, and bruxing, clenching or tooth grinding are very prevalent in both adults and children. Chronic allergies and nasal congestion can also cause habits to occur at the same time magnifying and multiplying the effects.
To understand the affects of habits we must first understand the terms used to describe the results. Proper alignment of the teeth and jaws occurs when there is a balance between muscles, bones and teeth and a harmonious relationship involving horizontal and vertical growth of the face. Occlusion or malocclusion describes the way the teeth meet or bite together with a malocclusion being an abnormal bite. Overjet is the horizontal distance between front surfaces of the top teeth and that of the bottom teeth. Over bite is the amount of horizontal overlap between the top and bottom teeth. A crossbite is where a tooth (or teeth) have, a more buccal or lingual position. That is, the tooth is either closer to the cheek or to the tongue and out of proper alignment. With an openbite, there is no overlap between top and bottom teeth. A deep bite occurs when there is excessive of more than 1-2 mm of vertical overlap of the top and bottom teeth.
Crowding is the amount of overlapping of the teeth. Spacing is the amount of gaps or space between the teeth. TMD, Temporal Mandibular Disorder, involving headaches, clicking and popping noises, stiff necks and can entail limited mouth opening.
Mouth breathing causes a variation in the vertical growth of the face which can lead to excessive growth and materialize as a gummy smile appearance, and/or long face, narrow upper and lower arches, crowding and crossbites.
Lip and Nail biting habits are associated with the formation of spacing between the front or back teeth, crowding, and excessive overjet. Cheek Biting can be the results of crossbites. Tongue Sucking/Thrusting and Thumb or Finger sucking can cause excessive overjet, openbites, narrow jaws, crossbites, flared or bucked teeth and excessive spacing of the teeth. Bruxing or Teeth grinding can cause crowding, deepbites or worn tooth surfaces and lead to TMD.
There are many different ways to treat and stop the above habits. Orthodontic treatment solutions can involve behavioral management and appliance therapies.