Oral Habits | Part 1

Oral Habits | Part 1

At Hilton Dental we are committed to our clients and would want them to have the basic knowledge of their oral health and status. Join us as we take you through oral habits and how they affect your oral health, including what you need to do to correct the effects caused by these habits, bearing in mind we render professional dental services in our clinic.

Habits are Common behaviors seen in children and adults which result in jaw deficits and subsequent speech and feeding disorders. Such habits include jaw clenching and teeth grinding (bruxism), excessive mouthing of objects, thumb and finger sucking, tongue sucking, lip chewing, nail-biting, ice crunching, and extended bottle and pacifier use. These habits, when excessive or continued past appropriate developmental necessity, can lead to poor dental health, be socially stigmatizing, and cause speech unclarity.

Common reasons oral habits may occur

  1. Environmental/external stress; is normal and processed differently in each person. Some feel the tension in their shoulders and stomachs, or get frequent headaches; while others may exhibit tension in the oral musculature and joints. These habits can be signs of associated stress or tension. While this can be a normal and adaptive behavior promoting stability, it can also become excessive.
  2. Dental misalignment (malocclusions) and physical tension located in the Joint.

Thumb and Finger Habits

Thumb and finger habits make up the majority of oral habits in children.  The dentofacial changes will vary with the intensity, duration and frequency of the habit and the position of the digit in the mouth.  The dentofacial changes include:

  • Anterior open bite
  • Facial movement of the upper incisors
  • Lingual movement of the lower incisors
  • Upper arch constriction

The earlier the habit is discontinued the greater the likelihood of dentofacial changes self-correcting.  However, the child should be allowed to stop the habit spontaneously, sometimes they do due to peer pressure. The simplest treatment is counseling, and the success of this approach is dependent on the child’s ability to understand the consequences of continuing the habit.

A second approach is reminder therapy.  This is effective in a child who wants to stop the habit but needs additional help.  The technique involves placing a cue on the patient’s finger as a reminder not to place their finger in the mouth, especially while sleeping.  The cues may be a bandage, a sock or mitten, or a bitter/peppery substance.  This therapy can be used in conjunction with a reward system.  A contract is drawn up with the child and parent.

The third approach is to use an appliance called a habit breaker which is usually fabricated in the dental clinic.


The consequences of extensive use of a pacifier are similar to that of finger and thumb sucking but not as pronounced.  The pacifier habit tends to end earlier than digital habits because they are easier to lose intentionally or non-intentionally

Lip Habits

Lip habits include lip sucking, licking, and biting. Lip licking is the most common.  The most common clinical effects are swollen lips.  Severe lip licking, with the lower lip tucked behind the upper incisors, places excessive force on the lower teeth and upper teeth, resulting in misalignment of the upper and lower teeth…

To be continued…

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