IS THUMBSUCKING BAD FOR MY TEETH?
As a parent, you may worry about your child’s thumbsucking habits and the effect it may have on their teeth in later years. Is thumbsucking bad? No, thumbsucking is a natural behavior. Many infants begin sucking their thumb while still in the womb, as it provides soothing and comfort. Sucking on fingers, thumbs, pacifiers or other objects can make infants and young toddlers feel happy and secure, help them learn about the world around them, and help them fall asleep.
SHOULD I TRY TO STOP MY INFANT FROM THUMBSUCKING?
While pediatricians don’t recommend trying to deter young babies from thumbsucking, it can cause a problem if they are allowed to continue through the later toddler and preschool years, or during school-aged years, when their adult teeth are beginning to emerge. Pressure from the thumb on the roof of the mouth and from sucking can cause multiple issues which may lead to problems with your child’s bite.
IS THUMBSUCKING BAD?
Prolonged thumbsucking can have a negative effect on your child’s teeth by interfering with the proper growth of the mouth, changes to the roof of the mouth, and the alignment of the teeth. Pacifiers also can cause the same effects, but that habit is usually harder to break. How intensely your child sucks is a factor that will determine whether dental issues are likely to result. If your child passively rests their thumb in their mouth they will generally suffer less negative effects than if they are an aggressive thumbsucker.
WHAT ARE THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF THUMBSUCKING?
Prolonged thumbsucking by late toddler, preschool or school age children can cause multiple issues down the road. The most common include:
Open Bite – Also called dental malocclusion, this is one of the most serious and permanent effects of long-term thumbsucking. The term refers to visible tooth misalignment when the mouth is closed. An open bite means both the top and bottom sets of front teeth don’t touch and are directed outward. An open bite typically requires orthodontic intervention in the future.
Overbite – As with an open bite, an overbite involves teeth being directed forward, however, this is limited to the upper teeth only. This type of malocclusion can affect the shape of your child’s face and their smile and may result in the need for orthodontic alternative intervention and headgear, as it interferes with the placement of traditional metal braces.
Speech Impediments – Thumbsucking affects the development of your child’s teeth, jaw, and palate, and can also change how your child speaks and eats. It can cause lisping and the inability to pronounce consonants such as “T” and “D”. Without correctional orthodontics, even speech therapy may not be able to fix speech impediments, as they are caused by the positioning of their teeth to their tongue.
WHEN DO CHILDREN STOP THUMBSUCKING?
Most children stop thumbsucking between the ages of two and four when their permanent front teeth are ready to come in. To help them kick the habit, the following tips may help.
For more information about children’s dental issues, check out our blog. If you notice changes in your child’s teeth or are concerned about your child’s thumbsucking, call Dobson Ranch Dental Care today to schedule a consultation.