Is Thumb Sucking Bad for Your Childs Health?

Babies and small children have natural reflexes that cause them to suck on things. They put everything they see in their mouths and suck on it all- especially their thumbs. This can help them feel secure and safe. While thumb sucking is not uncommon or unusual, it’s important to catch and break the habit early.

What is normal?

Children will often stop sucking their thumbs as early as 6 months and as late as 4 years. Many family dentists would agree that after age 4, it is time to start working towards eradicating the behavior. This is because 4 years is a pivotal stage in the development process and continuous thumb sucking could cause permanent jaw or teeth damage.

Thumb and finger sucking, along with pacifiers, are perfectly safe for infants. As we stated above, this will help your baby feel safe as they deal with different stressors in their lives.

Taking the problem seriously

It can be easy to overlook your child’s thumb sucking habit because it can become second nature to you both- as if you don’t even recognize it anymore. While it may be cute as an infant, the possible permanent damage to your child’s teeth is a very real concern.

When a child sucks on their thumb often, it will begin to change the position of the front upper teeth. The front teeth will begin to move out consequently putting their bite in misalignment creating an overbite or an open bite. When the jaw is not aligned properly, other skeletal problems can occur. Once these changes begin to happen, your family dentist will more than likely not be able to help and you will have to seek out an orthodontist.

Advocating for your child’s health

There are several ways for you to encourage your child to stop sucking their thumb or fingers. Here are some great ideas for you to try at home:

  • Ignore the behavior- sounds too simple, doesn’t it? Often times, not reacting to the behavior may be the best and most effective way to solve the problem.
  • Use positive reinforcement- reward your child when they don’t suck their thumb- whether that be a gold star or an extra 15 minutes of playtime.
  • Know the stressors- there may be certain events that cause your child to suck their thumb such as going to the doctor’s office or even the drive to school. In these moments, reassure your child that everything will be fine!
  • Ask your family dentist- odds are, they have a few tricks up their sleeves because they’ve dealt with this issue more than you have!

While thumb sucking may be an innocent behavior early on, it can quickly lead to detrimental side effects on your child’s oral health. Ask your family dentist what their recommendations are in keeping their teeth bright and healthy!

 

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