Oral Sucking Habits

Oral habits can affect how your child’s mouth grows.  

Digit sucking (like thumbs or fingers) is a habit that occurs in infants. Children usually give up digit sucking by 3 years of age. Pacifier habits or tongue thrusting can also be an issue.  

If the child continues habits past age 3, changes in the shape of your child’s mouth may be permanent!  When their permanent teeth start to erupt, they may develop crooked teeth and a malformed roof of their mouth.

This results from the frequency, duration, intensity, and position of the child’s oral habit. This can also affect the position of the upper and lower jaw and may affect speech.

If the habit continues, special orthodontic appliances may be required to help your child break their habit.  Talk to your pediatric dental speicailist to learn more.  

Suggestions to break the habit:

  • Wait until the time is right (low stress).
  • Motivate your child (show examples of what could happen to their teeth and fingers/thumbs).
  • Use a reward system (small incentives will encourage your child to stick with it).
  • Be consistent! Don’t give up if your family has decided on an extinction plan to stop the habit.
  • Talk to your pediatric dental specialist if you are concerned. Dr. Iben and Dr. Geneser have helped many families with similar issues and will have great ideas to help your family as well!