How Does Thumb Sucking Affect the Teeth?

August 1, 2020

The majority of infants suck thumbs through the first year of life. Most infants stop the habit without a parent’s effort. However, for some, the practice may persist into teenage hood. At what point should you intervene, and how do you go about it? Continue reading.

Why Do Children Suck Thumbs?

Because of the sucking reflexes, infants are inclined to suck thumbs– sometimes, it begins at the womb. Thumb sucking soothes the baby and makes them feel secure. That’s why some babies develop the habit of relaxing when they are stressed or need to sleep.

How long does thumb suck last?

Most children stop sucking their fingers without any intervention, often by six or seven months. But, the habit can progress to age four. If the behavior persists beyond four years, consult a pediatric dentistry clinic.

 Side Effects of Thumb Sucking?

Intense thumb sucking causes dental problems. It alters the jawline and leads to misaligned teeth. Prolonged thumb sucking can trigger the following:

  • Overbite. It is a misalignment of the upper front teeth. The teeth protrude outward from a child’s upper jaw, and the upper teeth cover the bottom teeth when the mouth is closed.
  • Underbite. The lower teeth extend outwards than the upper front teeth.
  • Challenges in socializing. Sometimes, children who suck thumbs in public places are a target of ridicule from his peers.
  • Skin problems. A child may experience a severe medical condition on the preferred thumb. The skin can crack and bleed. It may result in an infection on the bleeding site.
  • Difficulty biting and chewing food
  • Challenges with speaking. Thumb sucking results in speech problems.
  • Mouth and face pain because of a misaligned jaw

Please note, the side effects may not develop at all. If your child drops the habit by the time the permanent teeth erupt.

How Pediatric Dental Services may help Solve the Side Effects

Are you worried about your child’s continued thumb sucking? Visit Islands Pediatric Dentistry Clinic. We will evaluate the changes in your child’s teeth. Depending on the findings, we may recommend different treatment options:

  • Interceptive orthodontic treatment involves the diagnosing, treatment, and prevention of dental problems. The dentist may recommend a jaw expander braces to expand the jaw and provide enough space for the teeth to emerge. The expander braces disrupt the behavior since they are fixed on the upper jaw.
  • Counseling and education. Our dentist will chat and encourage your child to stop the habit. We may also inform them of the adverse effects of thumb sucking.
  • Reminders or physical barriers such as mittens, thumb guards, and socks can also work great in breaking the habit.
  • Braces help to reposition the teeth. We offer different braces, but for severely misaligned teeth, we recommend the traditional metal braces. These orthodontic devices hold the teeth together with the metal wires. Unlike other orthodontic devices, conventional braces move the roots too, which will give better results. But, the treatment will take longer.
  • Skin treatment. Remember, continuous thumb sucking can cause skin problems. If the wounds are severe, our dentist will advise on the treatment plan.

How to Help Your Child Stop Thumb Sucking?

Try the tips to help your child stop the thumb sucking habits below:

  • Have a dialogue. Talk to your child about thumb sucking. Some children do not realize that sucking is a habit they should stop. By having a conversation, you open the door for a candid conversation on the effects of thumb sucking, such as impaired speech, teasing, and abnormal teeth.
  • Pay attention to your child’s thumb sucking times. Sleeping and watching TV are the common times’ children suck their thumbs. Identify when your child is likely to suck their thumbs and help them stop. You can try switching off the TV if you catch your child’s sucking thumbs.
  • Create a positive reward system

Take Away

Thumb-sucking has negative effects on the dental health of your child. Although it starts as a relaxing technique, it can become a habit. If you are ready to intervene and stop the problem, visit the Islands Pediatric Dentistry clinic for more information on the thumb sucking.