Oral Habits


Thumb Sucking

Sucking is a natural and normal desire and need for the infant. Satisfaction is considerable during the first year of life during sucking and shouldn’t be discouraged. Controversy exists concerning whether a thumb or pacifier is best, but the decision is up to the parents, or in many cases, the infant. Should a pacifier be selected it should meet the following requirements:

  • Solid, one-piece construction or with inseparable parts.
  • Large plastic shield to prevent aspiration.
  • Shield should have 2 ventilating holes.
  • Non-toxic material
A thumbsucking habit should not be of concern prior to 4-5 years of age. Often peer pressure from other children will result in termination of the habit. The child should never be punished, scored, ridiculed or belittled by the parents in attempt to stop the habit. A positive approach is always best. The habit becomes a concern when the permanent teeth erupt or a severe deformity develops. Dr. Merritt can offer suggestions to help terminate a damaging thumbsucking habit.

Dental Injuries

Falls, bumps and bruises are a normal part of he growing-up process of infants and young children. Quite often, between 12-18 months of age as the infant learns to walk, unsteadiness leads to injuries of the mouth and teeth when the infant falls against furniture, stairs, sidewalks and the like. The resulting dental injury may be a minor laceration, a laceration combined with a fractured tooth, or a tooth which is pushed up into the gum. Any injury causing bleeding that doesn’t stop readily or that results in tooth fractures or teeth being intruded should be evaluated by our office.

We can provide the following information related to the injury:

  1. The extent of damaged caused by the injury (there may be more than meets the eye).
  2. The possible outcomes that can be expected as a result of the injury.
  3. A description of signs and symptoms that signal unfavorable reactions resulting from injury  that parents should look for.
  4. What treatment should be accomplished if any.
    Frequently all that is required is close observation. However, this can only be determined by  examining the injury itself. Occasionally some immediate treatment may be required.  Whenever there is an injury to the mouth of an infant or young child that is severe enough to  cause parental concern, it is wise to have it evaluated promptly.