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Int Orthod. 2010 Dec;8(4):372-85. doi: 10.1016/j.ortho.2010.10.001. Epub 2010 Nov 20.

Influence of the mode of nutritive and non-nutritive sucking on the dimensions of primary dental arches.

[Article in English, French]

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Service d'orthodontie, odontologie, université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, Senegal.



Sucking is innate in both infants and young children. It is termed nutritive when referring to suckling from the breast or bottle-feeding and non-nutritive when applied to sucking of a digit or pacifier. Few studies have attempted to assess the impact of the type of sucking on the size of the dental arches. The aim of this study was to quantify the influence of the mode of nutritive suckling and non-nutritive sucking habits (NNSH) on the measurements of the dental arches.


This was a transverse descriptive study involving 226 Senegalese children. The mode of feeding and the presence or not of a NNSH (digit or pacifier) were gathered from parents of all children using a structured questionnaire. Quantitative variables regarding intra- and inter-arch relationships were recorded using plaster moulds taken from the children. Statistical analyses were used to compare the different variables according to gender, the mode of feeding and the presence or not of a NNSH.


The subjects in the study (123 boys and 103 girls) were aged between 5 and 6years old. The children who had enjoyed mixed feeding (breast/bottle combination) had a great length of the anterior maxillary arch and a significantly greater depth of the palatal arch than children receiving breast-feeding alone. The children with antecedents or a current NNSH had a longer anterior maxillary arch than subjects with no NNSH (P=0.01). Regarding inter-arch relationships, the children with antecedents or a current digit-sucking habit had less overbite than their peers who had no NNSH (P=0.04).


The results of this study show that bottle-feeding, even partial, as well as NNSH are associated with changes in certain dimensions of the maxillary dental arch and in inter-arch relationships. Longitudinal studies are required to investigate further the nature of this association.

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