Oral Health Problems in Children (cont.)

Tongue thrusting

Tongue thrusting is the habit of sealing the mouth for swallowing by thrusting the top of the tongue forward against the lips.

Just like thumb sucking, tongue thrusting exerts pressure against the front teeth, pushing them out of alignment -- which causes them to protrude, creating an overbite and possibly interfering with proper speech development.

If you notice symptoms of tongue thrusting, consult a speech pathologist. This person can develop a treatment plan that helps your child to increase the strength of the chewing muscles and to develop a new swallowing pattern.

Lip sucking

Lip sucking involves repeatedly holding the lower lip beneath the upper front teeth. Sucking of the lower lip may occur by itself or in combination with thumb sucking. This practice results in an overbite and the same kinds of problems as discussed with thumb sucking and tongue thrusting. Stopping the habit involves the same steps as described for stopping thumb sucking.

Early tooth loss

Premature loss of a child's primary teeth typically occurs due to tooth decay, injury, or lack of jaw space.

If teeth are lost before the permanent teeth emerge, the nearby teeth can tip or shift into the space now unoccupied. When a permanent tooth tries to emerge into its space, there may not be enough room. The new tooth may emerge tilted. Crooked or misaligned teeth can cause a range of problems from interfering with proper chewing to causing temporomandibular joint problems.

If your child loses a tooth prematurely, your dentist may recommend a space maintainer. A space maintainer is a plastic or metal device that holds open the space left by the missing tooth. Your dentist will remove the device once the permanent teeth begin to erupt.

Reviewed by the doctors at the Cleveland Clinic Department of Dentistry.

Reviewed by Jay H. Rosoff, DDS, on March 1, 2007.

Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson Mathis, MD, on May 1, 2005.

Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2005


Last Editorial Review: 3/27/2008

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Oral Health Problems in Children - Experience Question: Have you let your child fall asleep with a bottle? Did it cause dental problems? Please describe them.