How Thumb Sucking Causes Oral Health Issues

Thumb sucking is a natural reflex that originates in the womb as a method of self-soothing. This allows your child to calm themselves down and regulate their emotions without the help of outside forces. 

This behavior often continues when children are born as a way to reduce stress and negative emotions when they feel hungry, bored, upset, or distressed. Thumb sucking only becomes a problem when it continues to the point that your child’s permanent teeth are coming in. 

Read on in this blog from Kindred Pediatric Dentistry to find out how thumb-sucking for too long can negatively impact your child’s oral health.

Problems Associated With Thumb Sucking

Many children naturally stop sucking their thumbs of their own volition between the ages of 2 and 4. When thumb sucking continues for too long, it can negatively affect your child’s oral development and tooth alignment. 

Children who suck their thumbs by the age of 6 are at high risk for bite problems such as over and open bites. Thumb sucking can alter the development of the roof of the mouth, causing it to be abnormally narrow and sensitive. 

The shape of the jaw can also change, which can cause orthodontic problems like gaps between the teeth and speech impediments. These problems can also contribute to social difficulties such as embarrassment and ridicule.

When & How to Wean Your Child Off of Thumb Sucking

Your child should stop sucking their thumb by the time they are 4 years old but the earlier you can wean your child off of the behavior, the better. If your child is still sucking their thumb by the time the permanent teeth are coming in, then oral health and development problems are highly likely. 

Since most children naturally stop sucking their thumb between 2 to 4 years old, you may choose to ignore the behavior in the hopes that your child will stop on their own. However, there are some other methods you can try such as using positive reinforcement to stop the behavior. 

Praising your child when they manage to avoid thumb sucking or rewarding them when they go for a certain time without sucking their thumb can motivate them to stop. What you shouldn’t do is criticize or bring negative attention to thumb sucking which can be counter-intuitive and only increase the behavior. 

If your child has the desire to stop sucking their thumb, then you may gently remind them when they suck their thumb as a habit. Since children suck their thumb to soothe themselves, try providing alternative ways to calm them down when they are upset, anxious, or stressed, or try avoiding situations that trigger these feelings.

How a Pediatric Dentist Can Help

Thumb sucking can be a difficult habit to break because it calms children down and is a natural instinct. This is when some parents may need more physical interventions such as placing something on the thumb that covers the skin or spraying something on the thumb that tastes bad when your child puts it in their mouth. 

Avoid replacing thumb sucking with pacifiers, which cause the same oral health problems and should be discontinued at the same age. A pediatric dentist can help you formulate strategies to stop your child from thumb sucking. When all other methods have been exhausted, we can try placing a temporary orthodontic appliance in the mouth that interferes with thumb sucking

Schedule a Consultation in Beaumont Today 

If your child struggles with thumb sucking and their permanent teeth are erupting, they may already have issues with their speech and bite. Contact us at Kindred Pediatric Dentistry today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Meghanne Kruizenga in Beaumont. 

We can screen for orthodontic problems, help you wean your child off of thumb sucking, and refer you to an orthodontist to correct orthodontic problems.

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