Tongue Sucking: Causes, Consequences, and How to Stop it

Tongue Sucking Habbit

Tongue Sucking – Did you know that something as simple as tongue sucking can have lasting effects on your oral health? Tongue sucking is a common habit that involves placing the tongue between the teeth and applying suction. It can occur in both children and adults, and if left unaddressed, it can lead to various dental problems. In this article, we will explore the causes, consequences, and effective ways to stop tongue sucking.

I. What is Tongue Sucking?

Tongue sucking is a habit where an individual places their tongue between the teeth and applies suction. It is often observed in infants but can also persist into childhood and adulthood. Tongue sucking can be seen as a self-soothing behavior or a way to seek comfort.

When infants engage in tongue sucking, it is often associated with the use of pacifiers or bottle feeding. The natural sucking reflex of babies can lead them to develop a habit of tongue sucking. It provides them with a sense of comfort, especially when they are in unfamiliar or stressful situations.

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II. Causes of Tongue Sucking

1. Infants and Feeding Habits

In infants, tongue sucking is often associated with the use of pacifiers, bottle feeding, or thumb sucking. The natural sucking reflex of babies can lead them to develop a habit of tongue sucking. It can provide them with a sense of comfort, especially when they are in unfamiliar or stressful situations.

2. Psychological and Emotional Factors

In children and adults, tongue sucking can be caused by psychological or emotional factors. Anxiety, stress, or oral fixation can contribute to the development of this habit. It may become a repetitive behavior to cope with emotions or as a way to relieve tension.

Some children might suck their tongue as a means of self-soothing, similar to thumb sucking. Others may do it unconsciously as a response to boredom, anxiety, or even frustration. For adults, tongue sucking can also serve as a coping mechanism for stress or anxiety, providing a sense of comfort and relaxation.

III. Consequences of Tongue Sucking

A. Dental Problems

Prolonged tongue sucking can have negative effects on dental health. The constant pressure from the tongue can push the teeth forward or cause them to shift, resulting in malocclusions. Malocclusions refer to misalignments of the teeth or jaws, leading to issues such as crowded or crooked teeth, open bites, and crossbites.

If left untreated, these dental problems can impact both the appearance and function of the teeth. Crooked teeth can be challenging to clean properly, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Additionally, malocclusions can affect a person’s bite, leading to difficulties with chewing, speaking, and even temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.

B. Speech and Language Development

Tongue sucking may also impact speech and language development, particularly in children. The presence of the tongue between the teeth can interfere with proper articulation of sounds, leading to speech difficulties or a lisp. These speech impediments can affect a child’s communication skills and may require speech therapy intervention to correct.

C. Oral Hygiene and Oral Health

Tongue sucking can increase the risk of oral health issues. The constant presence of the tongue between the teeth creates a warm and moist environment, which can promote the growth of bacteria. This bacterial growth can lead to dental problems, including cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. Maintaining good oral hygiene becomes even more crucial for individuals who engage in tongue sucking.

How to Stop Tongue Sucking

IV. How to Stop Tongue Sucking

1. Awareness and Motivation

The first step in stopping tongue sucking is to bring awareness to the habit. Recognize the situations or triggers that lead to tongue sucking and identify why it occurs. Understanding the underlying causes can help in finding effective solutions to break the habit. Motivation is crucial in overcoming habits, so remind yourself of the importance of breaking this habit for your oral health.

2. Substitute or Distraction Techniques

For infants and young children, providing alternative comfort objects like a soft toy or blanket can help redirect their oral fixation. Encourage them to engage in other activities such as drawing, playing with toys, or practicing relaxation techniques when they feel the urge to suck their tongue.

For adults, finding alternative stress-relief techniques like deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, or chewing sugar-free gum can replace the habit of tongue sucking. These activities can distract the mind while providing a similar sensation of oral stimulation.

3. Positive Reinforcement

Reward yourself or your child for not engaging in tongue sucking. Create a sticker chart or a reward system to encourage and acknowledge progress. Celebrate small milestones and offer praise for their efforts. Positive reinforcement can be a powerful motivator and can help to break the habit over time.

4. Seek Professional Help

If tongue sucking persists and causes significant dental or speech issues, it is advisable to seek professional help. A dentist, orthodontist, or speech therapist can provide guidance and recommend appropriate interventions to stop tongue sucking.

They may suggest the use of orthodontic appliances like habit-breaking appliances or recommend techniques to reframe the behavior. Speech therapists can assist in correcting speech difficulties associated with tongue sucking through targeted exercises and guidance.


Tongue sucking may seem like a harmless habit, but it can have long-term consequences on your oral health. By understanding the causes and consequences, we can take steps to stop this habit. Through awareness, motivation, and the implementation of alternative techniques, we can overcome tongue sucking and protect our dental health.

Remember, breaking a habit takes time and effort, but with determination and the right strategies, it can be achieved. It’s never too late to break a habit and prioritize your oral well-being. By saying goodbye to tongue sucking, you’re not only improving your dental health but also promoting proper speech development and overall oral hygiene. It’s time to say goodbye to tongue sucking and hello to a healthier smile!

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