Child Thumb Sucking

Does Your Child’s Thumb Sucking Affect How Their Teeth Grow?

Herschel Berger Dental Care

Thumb sucking is a natural way that young children self-soothe, but when does it become an issue, and how can it affect tooth development and dental health? In this article, we will seek answers to these questions and explain the reasons for this activity.

Does thumb sucking damage a child’s teeth?

This answer requires a detailed explanation. It really depends upon the type of thumb sucking your child engages in. Passively holding the thumb in the mouth, for example, is unlikely to cause damage. Active thumb sucking can create excessive movement and pressures which can be damaging. Thumb sucking that is intensive or vigorous can cause adult teeth to become misaligned as well as impacting the palette or jaw shape. Also, any contact with the fingers in the mouth can increase exposure bacteria and germs.

What are the long-term effects of thumb sucking?

Intensive thumb sucking can affect a child’s entire mouth and can cause:

  • An overbite (where the front teeth on the top jaw protrude outwards).
  • General bite issues such as an open bite, where the top and bottom sets of teeth do not meet correctly, or the low set of teeth tipping inwards.
  • Changes to the shape of the jaw which can affect tooth alignment.
  • A lisp or speech impediment due to misaligned jaw/teeth.
  • Sensitivity of the roof of the mouth.

The above symptoms are unlikely to occur if the thumb sucking stops by the time the child grows its adult teeth. However, if thumb sucking continues, then the likelihood of the above symptoms increases.

How long is it safe for a child to suck their thumb?

As previously mentioned, thumb sucking is completely natural between the ages of 2 and 4 and is safe. However, once this window has passed, thumb sucking should be monitored and steps taken to gradually discourage the behaviour due to the proper growth and alignment of adult teeth. If you’re concerned, discuss this with your child’s dentist or pediatrician. They will be able to advise you as to the next steps you should take.

How to Encourage your Child to Stop Thumb Sucking

Most children will stop in their own time, but if you are worried your child may be damaging their teeth or mouth formation, there are a few steps you can take to encourage the end of thumb sucking.

1. Triggers

As previously mentioned, thumb sucking is a calming action, and your child may be thumb sucking as a response to specific triggers. Tiredness, anxiety, hunger, or stress are all causes you might want to consider when figuring out why your child continues to suck their thumb. Once you learn this, you can try to distract them from this behaviour. Fidget toys, stress balls, and plushies are great for keeping little hands busy instead.

2. Praise

Praise your child often when they are not thumb sucking. You could create a sticker or reward charm to positively reinforce the behaviour change.

3. Reminders

Gently remind your child of their thumb sucking if they absentmindedly return to the behaviour. Be patient and prepared to repeat these reminders regularly.

4. Thumb Shields

If your child is an absentminded thumb sucker, then a thumb shield may be a great option to remind your child of their habits and help them to stop them. There are a variety of devices like this available. Alternatively, a cotton glove worn at night or at key thumbsucking times can be a great option.

Ask your Dentist for Advice

If thumb sucking is causing particular trouble or your Child Dental Issue Checkchild is strong-willed about the issue, then speaking to your child’s dentist may be a great option. Your dentist will be able to speak to the child and perhaps have ideas to steer them away from potential long-term damage. They also can provide advice or recommendations as to how to help stop thumb sucking.

The Dental Group of Simi Valley, CA are family dentists who have over 20 years of experience. We have dealt with a large amount of thumb suckers in our time and will give the very best advice and support to best help you and your child. We want to preserve your child’s smile by stopping the thumb sucking habit. With over 60 five-star reviews, you are guaranteed the very best in dental care and hygiene.