Thumb Sucking: Does It Harm Your Child

Pediatric Dentistry
Thumb Sucking: Does It Harm Your Child

Many soon-to-be-parents have witnessed their unborn children sucking their thumbs in the womb. At first, thumb sucking can be an adoring thing and even helpful, due to the fact that it calms hungry or fussy infants. However, when thumb sucking continues to be a part of older children’s habits, it can become a worry for parents -- particularly so for cosmetic reasons. It’s known that thumb sucking can lead to bucked and/or misaligned teeth. Although it’s normal for children to suck their thumbs for security, there comes a time when it should end. It’s a good idea to speak with a Watertown dentist about your child’s thumb sucking problem. 

Stopping Your Child from Thumb Sucking

As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to start weaning your child off his or her thumb when they’re around three years old. If your baby likes to suck on a pacifier, it’s a good idea to stop this around 18 months. This tends to be an easier habit to break than thumb sucking because you can take away the pacifier, but not their thumb. If you don’t stop your child from thumb sucking at around three years old, he or she is at risk of jaw development problems or an overbite. As your child gets older and understands more, you can explain how thumb sucking affects the teeth and mouth. Other than cosmetic concerns, thumb sucking can lead to teasing in school when they hit kindergarten and first grade. 

How Thumb Sucking Affects Teeth

Children who suck their thumb daily with a high intensity of pressure against the back of the upper teeth and gums will have the potential of developing bucked teeth. Those who start sucking their thumb from the first day of birth have a higher chance of having tooth development problems, as far as alignment goes. It can also have an impact on the positioning of the jaw and shape of the mouth. Those who suck their thumb occasionally are less likely to develop oral problems that are permanent. It’s common for thumb suckers to engage in their habit during times of boredom or exhaustion. 

When trying to stop your child from sucking his or her thumb, it’s best to use positive reinforcement versus negative commenting. This would only increase stress and their likelihood to suck their thumb. Typically, it takes about a month or two for children to no longer have the desire to suck their thumb. 

To have your child’s teeth analyzed for permanent damage caused by thumb sucking.

Make an appointment at our Watertown dental clinic at All Dental Center today!


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