How thumb sucking can affect permanent teeth

how-stop-thumb-sucking

Thumb sucking is a completely natural activity for children. However, if the habit follows them into toddlerhood or early childhood, it could affect their oral health.

Babies and young children often suck their thumbs because it decreases stress and anxiety, which is perfectly okay! Still, prolonged thumb sucking is cause for concern, especially when permanent teeth start to grow. Dentists worry that there is a possibility that the habit can affect the positioning of teeth, creating an overbite. It could also damage the roof of the mouth.

However, the level of oral health problems really depends on the intensity and regularity of the thumb sucking. There have been cases when the damage to the teeth can be enough to impede on proper chewing and even cause problems with speech.

It is recommended that children stop thumb sucking between the ages of two and four years old, or by the time the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt.

Wondering how to help your child stop thumb sucking? Here are some simple Do’s and Don’ts:

Do

  • Praise your child for not sucking.
  • Create a small incentive to help the praise. One idea is to offer a gold star for days they do not thumb suck.
  • Talk about thumb sucking in a calm way, without accusing them of doing anything wrong.
  • Explain to them what can happen to their mouths if they continue to thumb suck.

Don’t

  • Use spicy or sour liquids to deter a child from thumb sucking.
  • Scold a child for thumb sucking; this can heighten their anxiety.
  • Provide a pacifier as a replacement for thumb sucking.

If you notice changes in your child’s teeth, or are concerned about your child’s thumb sucking, contact us or bring it up at your child’s next appointment with us. We can offer encouragement to your child and explain what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop thumb sucking.