How Can Thumb Sucking Affect My Child’s Teeth?

Thumb sucking in babies and even small children is common, as it provides them with a sense of comfort. It’s also an instinctive reflex, as it allows the babies to feed. This instinctive reflex can continue into early childhood and beyond as it becomes a habit and can provide the child a sense comforting familiarity that also can aid in sleep.

While this all sounds well and good, a child sucking their thumb or finger can distort the natural growth of teeth. The teeth malformation usually results in an overbite. And believe me, I know. I was a thumb sucker until the age of 8. Not only was it detrimental to my teeth it was also bad for my self-esteem as I was the at the mercy of constant ridicule from my friends, parents, and brothers. Obviously, my parents wanted me to stop sucking my thumb for my own benefit. As for my friends and brothers, I think it was children being children and picking on anyone who was a little bit different.

My teeth were affected by the many years of thumb sucking in the form of an overbite, but there are many other ways it can affect the natural growth of teeth and jaws. The amount that thumb sucking will affect teeth contains many variables such as the frequency of sucking, how long (years), and the angle in which the thumb is inserted in the mouth.

In this post, I will check out some of the dental problems that can occur from the act of thumb sucking and provide some information on how to stop your child from sucking their thumb – before it gets out of hand and has a detrimental effect on the development of their teeth. As the saying goes prevention is better than cure.

Thumb sucking can cause a range of different problems to kids jaws and teeth

The upper jaw can be pushed or drawn forward, causing the appearance of an overbite. Although it’s not actually the definition of an overbite, it’s quite similar to the child’s teeth being angled forward from the prolonged sucking action, causing an actual overbite.

The lower teeth can also angle into towards the back of the mouth. Thumb sucking can also cause large gaps in the front teeth on both bottom and top. This can also sometimes affect the child’s ability to speak and can result in a lisp. Thumb sucking can also affect the natural positioning of the tongue and this too, will, in turn, cause unwanted speech impediments.

Most of these ailments can be corrected with dental procedures later on down the track, such as braces and other orthodontic corrections. But as I said before, prevention is better than cure, and stopping your child from sucking their thumb will benefit them later in life.

The question is how do you get your child to stop sucking their thumb?

I can tell you for sure that ridicule doesn’t work in the slightest. It will just make them do it more discreetly and view you as a threat rather than someone they can come to with their problems.

Luckily, most children grow out of thumb sucking by about the age of four in a general sense. Don’t be too alarmed if your child has reached four years of age and doesn’t stop this behaviour immediately.

Once your thumb-sucking child reaches school age and sees that none of their friends are sucking their thumb it’s more than likely they will stop the behaviour.

When disciplining your child, positive reinforcement of good behaviour is key. I can give you a few simple examples off the top of my head but I’m sure you can come up with your own, as long as it based on a positive reinforcement. That’s not to say you should buy your child a toy or give them treats every time they don’t suck their thumb. It also depends on the age of the child.

If they are old enough try to explain and show them the outcome of excessive thumb sucking and how it can cause harm to their teeth. Obviously, if they aren’t old enough to comprehend your explanation, other measures should be taken.

If they are in a position where they would usually be sucking their thumb give them some positive feedback in the form hugs and compliments.

Also, be on the lookout for various triggers that may cause them to suck their thumbs, such as times of stress, fear, or where the comfort of the thumb is needed.

Thumb sucking is a habit and some habits can take some time to break, so being patient with your child is of the utmost importance and if you are really worried about your child’s habit you may want to seek professional help. But of course, this should be a last resort. Positivity is the key.

Good luck on your endeavours and try to get your child out of the habit as soon as possible, meanwhile remaining patient and positive. The fact that thumb sucking can affect your child’s natural growth sucks. But it is a fact of life and a natural instinct of your beloved cherub. All I can say is good luck in your endeavour to cease the suck.

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