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Thumb Sucking Perth, WA - Dental Habits - Sparkle Dental
Habits And Growth The harmful effects of a sucking habit can begin after the first year of life.

Habits and Growth

How do children develop harmful habits?

hero-facialgrowth-(1).jpgA baby is born with several survival reflexes including the sucking reflex.  Before the age of 6 months, this is essential for life and is a very comforting activity for your infant.

In many cases, your infant may have formed the habit of sucking their thumb or finger in the womb before birth.  During the early days of life, the thumb or finger keeps returning to their mouth, staying there for long and longer times.

From age 6 months, the baby can eat from a spoon and drink from a cup and sucking is no longer necessary.  Some children find lots of comfort from the habit of sucking a bottle, sippy cup, dummy or their fingers or thumb.

Most of these children tend to suck when they are tired, bored or in need of comfort.  The habit can help them sleep more easily.    The habit may persist well beyond the first year of life.

In addition to sucking, there are several other habits which when consistent and persistent will affect the way the teeth, jaws and face grows. 

When are habits harmful?

The harmful effects of a sucking habit can begin after the first year of life.  

Harmful habits include;

  • thumb
  • fingers
  • sippy cup or bottle
  • dummy
  • lip sucking
  • blanket or cloths in the mouth
  • lip biting
  • sucking on other objects such as pens or pencils
  • nail biting

The impact of a sucking habit on a child’s face

Habits-And-Growth-2-(1).jpgGrowth studies have demonstrated that a sucking habit alters the normal growth pattern and eruption.

  • the tongue is a low position in the mouth under the thumb, finger or pacifier in order for the child to suck
  • the combination of abnormal tongue position along with the thumb, nipple or finger prevents the normal growth of the face by creating abnormal pressures on the upper and jaws
  • the upper teeth can become protrusive, and the lower teeth may tip back. 
  • the interference with normal tooth position and eruption can lead to a situation where the front teeth may not come together and there is an openbite
  • the alteration in bone or skeletal growth includes some narrowing of the upper jaw as the pressures of the cheek are not balanced by the pressure of the tongue
  • a crossbite may result from a disproportionately narrow upper jaw and the lower jaw may have to move sideways and forward for a child to bite together
  • if not corrected early, a permanent skeletal symmetry may occur and problems in the jaw joint may develop

The frequency, direction and intensity of the habit will determine how much abnormal growth occurs, but any abnormal growth will affect your child’s face.

It is only possible to change the pattern of growth that has not occurred, so the earlier the habit is eliminated the less effect on the teeth, jaws and face.