Will Thumb Sucking Hurt Your Child’s Dental Health?

Will Thumb Sucking Hurt Your Child’s Dental Health?

Babies begin sucking on their thumbs while they are still in their mother’s uterus. Some parents do get concerned that their child might have dental issues because of their thumb sucking. The truth is that thumb sucking will not affect very young children. However, if they continue to aggressively thumb suck as they age, it could cause quite a few dental problems.

Should You Stop Your Child From Thumb Sucking?

Yes, as they age, you should discourage them from sucking their thumbs. There are several things that you can do to help discourage them from sucking on their thumbs.

  • Reward system. Create a reward system where your child gets a treat or toy for not sucking on their thumb for the whole day.
  • Time restrictions. Set up time restrictions for when your child cannot suck their thumb, like no thumb sucking before dinner or bed.
  • Dental field trip. Schedule an appointment with your child’s dentist to allow the dentist to talk to your child about thumb sucking.
  • Reminders. Offer gentle reminders as to why your child should not be sucking their thumb. Never get aggressive or give out punishment for thumb sucking. This may only encourage the problem.
  • Keep your home life peaceful. Encourage your household to be peaceful. If your child is stressed or upset, they may be more prone to thumb sucking.
  • Pacifier use. You can use a pacifier for a short amount of time to help encourage your child not to suck on their thumb. Keep in mind that pacifier use should be limited as well.

Dental Problems Associated With Thumb Sucking

There are several dental problems that come from thumb sucking long term. Some of these problems will require medical intervention like surgery or braces. Early correction is imperative when it comes to damage caused by thumb sucking.

  • Overbite. An overbite is where the top teeth stick out and cover the bottom portion of the teeth. When a child has an extreme overbite, it can cause the face a look misshapen. If a child continues to thumb suck while their adult teeth are coming in, it can push the top of teeth out. Braces will not work to fix this problem, and headgear will need to be used. If a child’s overbite is not treated, it can lead to problems with chewing, breathing problems, and damage to other teeth.
  • Open bite. When a child has an open bite, their front teeth will not touch at all. This can cause swallowing, chewing, and biting problems. It can also cause the back teeth to clash more often, leading to broken teeth and chips. Some children with an open bite will develop speech impediments.
  • Tooth alignment issues. Thumb sucking can cause several tooth alignment issues, including tooth gaps and overcrowding. These problems will often have to be corrected by braces. In some severe cases, surgery may be warranted.
  • Roof damage. Thumb sucking can cause damage to the roof of your child’s mouth. The palate can collapse, causing sleep apnea and other breathing issues. A crossbite can also be concerning and cause dental issues. Children that have a crossbite often have a sunken-in appearance.

If your child is frequently thumb sucking and you want to make sure that no damages occur from this thumb sucking, please give our Greater Houston Pediatric Dentistry office a call today. We will be able to help give you ideas on how to get your child to quit sucking their thumb and treat any issues that may have been caused by long term thumb sucking.

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