Understanding the Effects of Thumb Sucking on Teeth

Understanding the Effects of Thumb Sucking on Teeth

Sep 01, 2020

For a child, it is not rare to see them sucking their thumb, finger, or just the pacifier. Pediatricians would even term it as a natural reflex for kids, which allows them to feel comfortable at different times. Unfortunately, nothing should last forever.

Thumb sucking that goes on for too long is bad for the child. This natural reflex can begin to affect the teeth and bone alignment of the child as they grow up. Knowing when to have your child stop these habits, therefore, is an important thing for any parent.

Why Thumb Sucking?

Babies have an urge or desire to suck on something, which is why they clutch so much in breastmilk. Aside from that, you must have noticed that children tend to put everything they interact with, in their mouths. This urge, however, should decrease after 6 months.

If your child continually persists in thumb sucking, then you may have a problem on your hands. Even so, it does not mean that your child has a problem. Many kids still go through this phase beyond 6 months. It becomes a mechanism for them to feel comfortable, especially when they are going to sleep. By the time your child is age 3 and has been weaning themselves, the habit should have long stopped. If not, there is a need to be concerned, and even solicit help from a Phoenix pediatric dentist.

Effects of Thumb-Sucking

As your baby grows up, things take a different meaning to them. The thumb sucking that should have indicated some form of comfort can now be seen as a sign of an emotional disorder. Sucking the thumbs or fingers after teeth have grown is especially a concern for children. Some of the daunting effects of prolonged thumb sucking are:

  1. Orthodontic problems – the continued thumb sucking can cause an alignment problem as teeth grow. This can lead to costly dental treatments that could have been avoided otherwise. Different kinds of orthodontic problems can manifest. One tooth or more may be pushed to grow incorrectly. Outcomes like an overbite or underbite are also possible outcomes of extensive thumb sucking.
  2. Middle-ear infections – the infections are not only costly to treat but can also involve surgical measures. While sedation dentistry is there to make the experience comfortable, it can be avoided altogether through programs like habit counseling.
  3. Emotional distancing – this may take a while to determine, but it is also a possible outcome for kids who suck their thumbs longer than they should or is typical. As your child spends most of the time sucking on their thumb, they take away from the experience of conversing with people and socializing with other children. It also breeds other problems like anxiety and stress, that a kid should not be experiencing when they are that young.
  4. Speech problems – problems with proper communication and pronunciation of words is also a possible outcome of prolonged thumb sucking.
  5. The sensitive roof of the mouth – sucking can cause the skin on the roof of the mouth to be too tender and rather sensitive. This may even introduce picky eating, where your kid will not eat some foods because of the discomfort thereof.

Can You Stop It?

Thumb sucking is not a helpless situation. Once you detect it going on for too long, there is always something you can do to stop it. It is better to do it sooner rather than later in the life of your kid. Some of the tips to help you along are:

  1. Talk to a pediatric dentist – they have experience in habit counseling, which can help your child a great deal.
  2. Distract your child – every time they are about to suck the thumb or even the pacifier, find a distraction. Use toys and songs to your advantage.
  3. Minimize comfort associated with sucking – ensure that their thumbs are inaccessible to them, more so at night. Use socks on their hands to help achieve this. You can also dip their thumbs in bitter-tasting medication to minimize comfort and reduce satisfaction. Slowly, your baby will be disinterested.
  4. Talk your toddler through it – young as they are, children do understand things. Break it down to them why you want them to stop sucking their thumbs. It helps to highlight the consequences thereof. This tactic will work better than threatening and punishing them for sucking their thumbs.

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