How Does Thumb-Sucking Affect Teeth?

How Does Thumb-Sucking Affect Teeth?

Jul 01, 2023

Thumb-sucking is a common habit among infants and young children. While thumb-sucking can provide some soothing and comfort, it can negatively impact the development and health of teeth and oral health. This article discusses how thumb-sucking can affect teeth and strategies to address and prevent it for optimal dental health.

Impacts of Thumb-sucking on Teeth

Thumb-sucking refers to placing the thumb into the mouth and sucking on it. While it might not seem harmful, regular and vigorous thumb sucking can affect dental development and oral health in several ways, including:

  • Teeth misalignments : Prolonged thumb-sucking can cause too much pressure on teeth, causing them to move out of position. In most cases, thumb-sucking is associated with overbites (where top front teeth lean forward) or open bites (where the front teeth don’t meet properly). Early intervention is necessary to correct teeth misalignments and your child’s bite to prevent future complications.
  • Malformation of the palate and upper jaw¬† : Thumb-sucking can also put excessive pressure on the upper jaw and palate (mouth roof), changing their normal shape and development. For instance, thumb-sucking can cause a narrower upper jaw, which results in further dental issues like crossbites (where the top and bottom teeth don’t come together)
  • Improper tongue-positioning : Thumb-sucking can also lead to wrong tongue positioning, speech problems, difficulty swallowing, and teeth misalignments.
  • Infections : Regular thumb-sucking can transfer bacteria, viruses, and germs into the mouth, putting your child at a greater risk of developing oral and body infections.

Visit our Longmont dental clinic if your child has developed any of these or related dental issues due to thumb-sucking or other factors. Prompt dental treatment is essential to prevent future complications.

Dental Care for Thumb Sucking

Visit our dentist in Longmont if your child regularly sucks their thumb. The dentist will monitor their tooth and oral development to check for and address any potential issues.

If thumb-sucking has affected your child’s dental and oral health, the dentist can recommend dental treatments like traditional braces and clear aligners.

Orthodontic treatments help align the child’s teeth and bite, reducing their risk of dental problems. A correct bite also improves your child’s speech, bite function, and the aesthetics of their teeth.

How to Stop Thumb-sucking

Fortunately, you can help your child stop thumb-sucking and protect their dental and oral health. Below are several tips for stopping thumb-sucking:

  • Gentle reminders. Keep reminding your child to stop or avoid thumb-sucking. Be gentle and don’t overly scold or criticize them harshly.
  • Positive reinforcement. Kids love praises and rewards. Promising to buy your child their favorite toys or take them out can encourage them to stop the act of thumb-sucking.
  • Identity triggers. Understanding the cause of thumb-sucking can help you know how to help your child. Observe and identify the emotions or situations that trigger thumb-sucking and help them find healthier coping alternatives.
  • Create distractions. Children often thumb-suck when idle. Offering distractions like toys and puzzles can keep them engaged, stopping thumb-sucking altogether or reducing the frequency.
  • Use bitter substances. Applying an edible, non-toxic substance to the thumb can help deter the child from thumb-sucking.
  • Create a thumb barrier. Putting a glove or sock on your child’s thumb can make thumb-sucking less enjoyable and stop the habit altogether.
  • Offer emotional support. Often, children suck their thumbs for self-soothing and comfort. Proper emotional support can help your child feel better and find alternative ways to find comfort, preventing thumb-sucking.
  • Seek professional help. If the child won’t stop thumb-sucking or the habit causes oral issues like teeth misalignments, it’s beneficial to consult a dentist or pediatrician for professional help.

Remember that thumb-sucking is a habit and requires time and patience to stop. Be gentle, understanding, and supportive as you help your child stop thumb-sucking.

Final Verdict

While occasional thumb sucking is unlikely to cause serious problems, prolonged or regular can affect your child’s dental and oral development and health. Helping your child stop thumb-sucking can help protect their mouth and prevent dental issues. For more information about thumb-sucking and pediatric dentistry near you, contact Mertz Family Dentistry.

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