Will Thumb Sucking Affect My Child’s Teeth?

Thumb sucking is a perfectly natural habit for young children and often sucking on a thumb, finger, or a pacifier will make a baby feel secure, relaxed, and happy. Sometimes children will soothe themselves to sleep by sucking a thumb, and especially if they feel sleepy, hungry, afraid, or bored.

Usually, children will stop sucking their thumb or finger on their own when they are aged between three and six, and it’s a habit that isn’t generally a cause for concern in a child who is preschool age or younger. But if a child continues to suck their thumb with a lot of intensity around age 4 or five, or is still sucking their thumb by age 6, it can affect their dental health.

How Can Thumb Sucking Affect Dental Health?

When an older child sucks their thumb, it can cause malocclusion, where their teeth become improperly aligned and cannot bite together correctly. As a child sucks their thumb, it rests directly behind their upper teeth, and the action pulls the upper jaw outwards, so it becomes elongated and narrower. This can affect the development of their adult teeth, potentially causing overcrowding. Also, the action of thumb sucking can pull the upper front teeth outward. It’s also possible for thumb sucking to affect a child’s speech, and they may develop a lisp or will be less able to say their Ts and Ds. If a child sucks their thumb for a prolonged period, they may need orthodontic treatment.

How Can Orthodontic Treatment Help?

If your child does have malocclusion because of thumb sucking, an orthodontic appliance can help to correct the shape of their jaws. This appliance takes advantage of growth spurts to guide the development of their jaws, creating enough room for their adult teeth to erupt normally.

How Our Dentist in Newcastle Can Help Your Child

Here at West Bowmanville Family Dental, we suggest children come to see us regularly from age three onwards. During these visits, we can monitor their dental health closely, checking for signs of problems like tooth decay and for issues that may be created by habits like thumb sucking. When a child struggles to stop sucking their thumb, other dental appliances can help and which fit behind the upper teeth, physically preventing them from thumb sucking in Clarington.

In addition to providing professional dental care, we can also offer some useful advice about how to persuade your child to quit thumb sucking, if necessary, and a few tips are listed below.

Helping Your Child to Quit Thumb Sucking at Home

It can be useful to identify when your child is most likely to suck their thumb and to try to provide distractions, so they are less likely to want to suck their thumb. Also, talk to them about their thumb sucking. Often children will want to stop as they may feel embarrassed or could be teased about it at school. Set specific times when they can suck their thumb and give them lots of praise when they manage to avoid this habit.

Consider setting up a reward system using stickers on a calendar for every day your child doesn’t suck their thumb. You can both decide on suitable rewards for a set number of days where they manage not to suck their thumb. If or when they do suck their thumb, don’t punish them as this can make things worse because thumb sucking is a comforting habit.

Please remember that we are a family-oriented dental practice, and we all love seeing kids. If your child needs to see a dentist in Courtice, contact us today to schedule their appointment.

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