How Does Thumb Sucking Damages Oral Health 

Thumb sucking is very common among children. In fact, this habit often starts inside the womb. That's because babies have natural sucking reflexes that help them soothe and relax. So, whenever a baby feels anxious, they might suck their thumb or finger to calm down. 

Studies have shown that babies who suck their teeth are less prone to develop allergies to pollen, for instance, and require less hospitalization. 

But, can thumb sucking affect a child's oral health? And if the answer is yes, what can you do about it? 

Thumb Sucking in Kids: How Bad Is It? 

As we said, thumb sucking is a natural reflex and it's considered safe up to a point. In fact, most children will stop sucking their thumb on their own at about six or seven months old or when they reach the age of 2-4 years old. They might resort to thumb-sucking when they feel stressed as a way to soothe themselves. 

When Does Thumb Sucking Become a Problem 

While thumb-sucking as a baby or toddler may not affect their oral health, this habit can become problematic once their adult teeth come in. 

Dentists recommend that you help your child stop this habit once they reach four years old. Persistent thumb sucking puts pressure on the roof of the mouth, teeth, and jawbone. That can lead to numerous oral health problems, such as: 

  • Various bite issues, such as an overbite. An overbite occurs when the upper front teeth stick out too much over the lower teeth. An overbite will require orthodontic treatment to move the teeth back into their correct position. 
  • Alterations of the shape of the jaw can further lead to misalignments and bite problems. Left untreated, these changes in the natural form of the jaw will not only affect the child's smile but their speech too. 
  • Alterations in the roof of the mouth can become more sensitive and cause pain and discomfort down the line. 

What Can You Do About It? 

In most cases, thumb-sucking goes away on its own. But, if your child is four years or older and they continue to vigorously suck their thumb, then it may be time to break the habit.

Here are some tips you can try:

  • Explain to the child why thumb sucking is bad and how it can affect their oral health. Show them pictures of malocclusions to paint a better picture. 
  • Praise or reward the child when they abstain from sucking their thumb. 
  • Try to identify the triggers that make your child want to suck their thumb. Instead of getting upset with them when they are doing it, try to determine what's making them anxious. Offer a hug or a soft toy instead to help them calm down. 

Let Us Help You Brighten Your Child's Smile in Mechanicsburg

If you are looking for a caring and gentle pediatric dentist who can help you with anything from preventive care to thumb-sucking issues and emergency dentistry, Smilehaus Pediatric Dentistry in Mechanicsburg is here to assist you. 

Get in touch with us now to book your appointment. 

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