Watch Your Mouth! Oral Habits to Keep an Eye On

oral health

One way to think of a habit is as “an acquired behavior that occurs involuntarily.”

Looking both ways when crossing the street, nail biting and neatness can all be habits. Obviously some habits (like smoking) can cause damage, while other habits (like eating fruit every day) are very beneficial.

Oral habits involve the mouth and everything in it — tongue, lips, palate, teeth, gums. Such habits include:
• Brushing teeth
• Gum chewing
• Finger and thumb sucking
• Biting the inside of the mouth
• Mouthing objects
• Drooling
• Tongue popping/clicking
• Flossing
• Tongue thrusting
• Mouth breathing
• Straw and cup drinking
• Suckling
• Nail biting

Some of these habits are perfectly normal during the course of a child’s development. Most children, for example,  take a pacifier at some time and/or habitually tongue thrust until they are approximately 3-4 years old.

Problems occur, however, when such habits persist into the school years. Research has demonstrated a link between some persistent oral habits and the presence of articulation disorders, while children already receiving articulation and/or oral motor therapy may find that these habits are impeding their progress.

Notify your SLP if your child habitually performs any of the following behaviors:
• Drooling
• Constant oral stimulation with inappropriate objects (ex. pencil)
• Mouth breathing
• Frequently positioning tongue where it is visible