How Thumb Sucking Damages A Child's Oral Health

Lots of babies, infants, and even toddlers suck their thumbs for comfort. It’s a really common habit, but did you know that it can harm your child’s oral health? In this blog from Cavity Patrol Pediatric Dentistry, we’ll discuss some of the hidden dangers of thumb sucking, and give you some tips to help your child break the habit.

How Does Thumb Sucking Damage Oral Health? 

The problem with thumb sucking is that it puts a lot of abnormal pressure on your child’s teeth and jaws. The teeth and jaws grow and change quite a bit during your child’s first few years. So constantly sucking the thumb vigorously can cause a lot of issues with your little one’s oral development, such as:

  • The development of an overbite
  • A gap between the upper and lower front teeth (open bite)
  • The inability to bite the front teeth together properly
  • A narrow, high arch in the roof of the mouth, which can interfere with oral development
  • The formation of a lisp when speaking

When Should My Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb?

Thumb sucking may sound like a serious problem, and it is. But there’s some good news, too. Most kids stop sucking their thumbs independently somewhere between the ages of 2 and 4 years old.

This is a good thing. The negative effects of thumb sucking mostly become serious once your child has all of their baby teeth, and their adult teeth are almost ready to erupt. This usually happens at about the age of 5.

So if your child is 2 or 3, you probably don’t have to worry about their thumb sucking habit. But if they're 4, 5, or even older, you may want to start thinking about strategies to break this habit and protect their oral health. 

How Can I Break My Child’s Thumb Sucking Habit?

There’s no one good answer, since every child is different. But there are a few different strategies you can try to limit, reduce, and eventually break your child’s thumb sucking habit.

  • Limit thumb sucking to particular times – If your child sucks their thumb a lot, one good first step is to limit it to particular times, such as 15 minutes after waking up or 15 minutes before bed. This is a good way to get your child to depend less on their thumb sucking habit.

  • Find another coping mechanism – Kids suck their thumbs to help with stress. So think about other strategies to help with this, like giving them a favorite toy or a blanket.

  • Take a positive approach – Becoming upset with your child will only stress them out more, which means they may suck their thumb as a coping mechanism. So focus on positive reinforcement. Praise your child when they don’t suck their thumb, and consider a chart or reward system to track their progress, and to give them rewards when they're doing well.

  • Cover their thumb at night – Some kids may suck their thumbs at night without even realizing it. Consider covering their thumb with a sock, a bandage, or some other covering to help them break this habit.

Routine Six-Month Dental Visits in Cypress & Katy

Did you know that kids should see the dentist when they turn 1 year old, or whenever their first tooth comes out? Whether you’re new to the area or you’re a new parent and you haven't taken your child to the dentist in Cypress or Katy, Cavity Patrol Pediatric Dentistry is here to help. 

Dr. Chun and Dr. Julia love serving kids of all ages, and we offer expert pediatric care in a comfortable, family-friendly environment. Contact us online or call today at (832) 305-6507 to schedule a consultation. We’re always accepting new patients!

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