Children find comfort from sucking a thumb, finger or a pacifier. This is normal. However, if the infant or child is doing this often, it can cause an irregular bite as the teeth are pushed into abnormal positions. This can lead to long term difficulties chewing or lead to other dental problems later in life if this habit persists.
How does Thumb Sucking Affect Your Child’s Teeth?
Thumb sucking engages powerful muscles that can alter the shape of the roof of your mouth (palate). This, in turn, can affect the position of the teeth. If the child continues to suck their thumb or fingers after the adult front teeth have erupted, conditions can worsen and it may require surgery to be corrected.
Thumb sucking also increases the risk of dirt, bacteria, allergens and other contaminants being introduced to your child, through the effort of thumb sucking.
Long Term Thumb Sucking Effects may include
- Thumb sucking can cause a variety of issues and have many effects on your child’s teeth and mouth. Some of the noticeable effects include:
- Creating or worsening overbite
- Tooth alignment or biting issues
- Jaw shape, which further affects chewing, biting and speech
- Mouth roof sensitivity
The longer that thumb sucking is allowed to continue, the more pronounced or the chance for any or all of these side effects to appear in your child increases.
What should you do to help your child?
Many children will naturally stop thumb sucking on their own, usually between the ages of 2 and 4. If you are worried about the amount of thumb sucking there are a few things that you can try to help curb the habit.
First, try and pay attention if there are any specific triggers that have your child reflexively going to suck their thumb. If a child is using thumb sucking as a method of self soothing, addressing the root issue of the anxiety could work to break the habit.
Other methods you can apply are positive reinforcement, gentle reminders when they go to suck their thumb, or even explaining what thumb sucking can cause to a child who is old enough.
If you are still struggling with a child who will not give up sucking their thumb and are worried about their dental health, you can speak to our dental professionals to get the help you need.