How Thumb Sucking is Damaging Your Child’s Teeth

Babies have a natural reflex of thumb sucking which starts while they are still in the womb and continues when they are born. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if they drop it at a certain age. Research shows that most children stop sucking their thumbs between the ages 2 – 4, which is great because the damages to their oral health might be minimal. 

However, when does thumb sucking become a problem? How does it affect your child’s teeth after a certain age? What can you do to help them drop this habit? Let’s try to answer some of these questions.

How Does Thumb Sucking Affect Teeth?

The effects of long-term thumb sucking are many-fold. Since they are constantly applying pressure to their jaws, teeth and the roof of the mouth, children can end up with quite a few problems. Some of them include: 

  1. Overbite – this the case when the upper teeth are protruding from the mouth
  2. Other bite issues – some children can have an open bite, a problem with their bottom and upper teeth not touching when their mouths are closed 
  3. Changes to the shape of the jaw – this can lead to bad teeth alignment and certain speech problems, one of which includes developing a lisp
  4. Sensitivity to the root of their mouths

If not controlled and supervised, thumb sucking teeth can cause many issues later in life. It’s always a good idea to consult a pediatrician or a professional dentist, like someone from the office of Dr. Angela Berkovich and inform yourself about the possible dental solutions and advice. 

Causes of Thumb Sucking 

We’ve already mentioned that the thumb sucking reflex might develop in the womb with some children. This how the babies learn to soothe on their own and that’s why some of them continue doing it even later on. If they are upset or nervous, it is only natural for them to try to calm down by sucking their thumbs. This isn’t a bad thing, but if it continues after a certain age (the age of 4), it is recommended to work on abandoning this habit. 

 teeth from sucking thumb

When to Intervene 

Thumb sucking can be beneficial for your child because they are being exposed to dirt and bacteria from an early age, meaning they will be less likely to develop allergies later in life. However, once their teeth start growing, it becomes very dangerous for them to suck their thumbs. Damaging teeth from thumb sucking is the number one reason for parents to know when to intervene. 

Many children stop sucking their thumbs on their own, but parents should be careful because stressful situations may result in going back to this routine.   

Ways to Help Your Child Stop 

The important thing here is not to use force or bribe because it rarely works, at least in the long run. If your child is older than 4, they are more likely to understand why it’s important to stop sucking their thumbs. If a gentle approach followed by a serious and encouraging conversation doesn’t work, you can try the following:

  1. Positive praising – set realistic goals and offer small rewards when they aren’t thumb sucking.
  2. Identifying triggers – find the real reason behind thumb sucking and offer an alternative way of comfort, such as a hug, kind words or a favourite toy.
  3. Reminding – gently remind them to stop if they start sucking their thumbs unconsciously. 
  4. Thumb shields – use protective devices or gloves and mittens to prevent your child from thumb sucking. 

Helping your child with this habit doesn’t have to be a big deal, if approached carefully and with care. Offering support and understanding are your best options in preventing your child from having serious dental issues when they grow up.

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