How to Help a Child Who Can’t Stop Chewing Everything | Denver Kid’s Dentist
It’s normal for babies and small children to chew on various objects as their teeth start to emerge, and even slightly older children can realize certain benefits from chewing. However, there comes a point where excessive chewing is more destructive than beneficial, to both the child and the items being chewed! If you are currently dealing with this particular problem, these tips from our Denver pediatric dentist may be able to help.
Chewing as a Coping Mechanism
Mouthing and chewing are normal behaviors which help children learn about the physical properties of the world around them. Chewing can also be beneficial for older kids who experience anxiety, boredom, or overstimulation. The heavy sensory input provided to the mouth and jaw when chewing, known as proprioception, can help calm or stimulate the nervous system when the chewer is over- or under-stimulated. Chewing can also provide relief for anxiety and aid concentration. Therefore, if you are dealing with an excessive chewer, note that it is most likely a coping mechanism for an underlying issue.
When Chewing Becomes An Issue
Although it can provide some positive benefits, chewing poses several risks to a child’s physical and oral well-being. Children who chew excessively may not be able to participate in functional, daily activities; cause self-injury like chewing on nails or skin; or destroy items at home and at school. From a pediatric dentist’s perspective, chewing places the teeth at high risk for cracking, chipping, and damaging the enamel. Even if only baby teeth are affected, exposing a child to a serious tooth injury and/or treatment at a young age can set up a vicious cycle of fear and avoidance of the dentist.
Remedies for Kids Who Chew
So, what can you do to help the kid who can’t stop chewing? Follow the tips below:
1. Try to figure out the root cause of the problem.
If your child is chewing everything because he or she is anxious, under-stimulated, or overstimulated, no surface treatment will be helpful for the long term. The key to stopping the chewing behavior is to learn and treat the root of the problem. You may want to enlist the help of a child psychologist or therapist.
2. Provide increased opportunities for “heavy work” input to the whole body each day.
Climbing, playing, biking, and even doing light yardwork can provide a child’s body with heavy input to the joints and muscles, called “proprioceptive input.” These activities organizing and calming sensory input to the brain, particularly for kids who struggle with accurately processing sensory information. If your child is chewing because he or she is seeking proprioceptive input orally, adding sensory and play activities to his or her daily schedule can help give him or her a better outlet.
3. Provide increased opportunities for proprioceptive input to the mouth.
Finally, you can help decrease the urge to chew non-appropriate things by providing more appropriate things to chew on. Foods that are crunchy or chewy; food and drinks that require sucking through a straw; and foods with an unusual taste or texture can help provide the heavy oral input the child is looking for. At non-meal times, handheld toys and therapy tools designed to help chewers can keep mouths and minds occupied. Lastly, an electric toothbrush can be an excellent tool for kids who constantly chew, as it provides more intense sensory input than simply brushing with a regular toothbrush.
Keep Your Teeth Healthy and Strong with Denver Pediatric Dentistry!
Our Denver children’s dentist is designed to help kids feel comfortable and confident while maintaining a great smile. To learn more about our pediatric dentistry services or schedule an appointment, get in touch with us today!