Effects of Thumb Sucking on Child's Dental Health

New parents are always concerned about the health and well-being of their infants and toddlers. They get worried even when their little one is sleeping less or crying unnecessarily. So, if they notice thumb sucking, it becomes the most alarming situation for them because they think that it will ruin their teeth alignment.

Although this anxiousness is not baseless, they need not start panicking at once. According to Hope Island dentist, thumb sucking is an instinctive habit that is displayed by babies, which is not harmful until it persists past three years of age and is vigorous in nature.

Passive thumb sucking is not a cause of concern unless the hands of the baby are unclean and can pass on bacteria and viruses to the mouth. Let us look at the effects of thumb sucking on a child’s dental health in detail.

The Impact of Thumb Sucking on Teeth

If young children continue to suck their thumbs for a long time with a lot of pressure and movement inside the mouth, it can affect the teeth and jaw. The primary upper teeth begin to protrude outwards because of the constant pressure on the teeth and jawbone.

Also, the lower teeth can be pushed inwards, which can lead to an open bite as the upper and lower teeth do not sit together when the mouth is closed. Thus, the child may suffer from malocclusion that creates a poor bite because of crooked teeth.

Moreover, the pressure exerted on the jaw can change its shape and lead to misaligned teeth and affect the speech of the child, such as developing a lisp while talking. It can also make the roof of the mouth sensitive.

In most cases, it does not cause any harm if it is discontinued by the age of two or by the time permanent teeth start appearing. However, if it changes the shape of permanent teeth, it can cause dental problems that need to be corrected by a specialist.

When To Consult a Dentist for Thumb Sucking

Most new born babies develop the habit of thumb sucking and get rid of it on their own by the age of two. However, there are some children who continue to suck their thumbs until eight years.

You must consult a dentist if your baby is sucking thumb after the primary teeth start appearing to examine the impact of the habit on the mouth. If you have ignored the habit for too long and your child has turned four and is still sucking his thumb, you must visit the dentist.

The practitioner will assess the damage done to the jaw, teeth and the roof of the mouth and prescribe treatment for the same. If there has been no significant damage to the mouth, the dentist may suggest letting go of the concern as the child will discontinue the habit on his own.

If the teeth have been misaligned, the dentist will suggest orthodontic braces to bring the crooked teeth back in their place. It is required to reduce the risk of developing gum disease and tooth decay. It ensures that the child can chew food properly and there is no impact on speech. Braces are also useful for correcting overbite and underbite.

Ways to Prevent Thumb Sucking at Home

Besides thumb sucking, the prolonged use of pacifiers can also impact the mouth of the child. However, making the child drop the habit can be challenging as it soothes them and reduces their anxiousness. As parents, you need to patiently work on breaking the bad habit by following the tips mentioned below.

  • Positive Reinforcement

Reward your child every time they listen to you and stop sucking their thumb. You can play with them, tickle them, make their favourite food for dinner, or give them a star so that they know that they have done something right and are getting encouraged by their parents. Positive reinforcements work better than screaming on the child.

  • Substituting the Habit

If the child is used to thumb sucking or using a pacifier while falling asleep, you need to substitute it with some other soothing object. You can provide the child with a soft toy so that they can snuggle and feel comfortable in the bed, or you can place starry night lights in the room that keeps them busy while trying to sleep.

  • Informing Older Kids

With older children, you can make the child listen to you. It is best to inform them about the impact of the habit on their teeth. The fear of affecting their mouth can make them stop. Sometimes peer pressure from other kids in the neighbourhood or siblings can also help in getting rid of the habit.

  • Do Not Use Force

If you use yelling or force on your child, they may become agitated and do it on purpose rather than as a reflex. You must always be gentle with the child and politely ask them to stop. You will have to do it many times during the day without getting frustrated.

  • Using A Thumb Shield

You can get a soft thumb shield or guard for the child that will stop him from putting his thumb in the mouth. With babies, you can use a mitten or a glove to stop them from sucking their thumbs.

Conclusion

If your child has constantly been sucking his thumb and you are concerned about his dental health, you must visit your dentist in Hope Island to get him examined. The practitioner will inform you about the right way to get rid of the habit.