The Effects Of Prolonged Thumb Sucking On Your Child’s Teeth And How You Can Help

Thumb sucking is a normal behavior in babies and toddlers, but prolonged thumb sucking can cause future dental issues. Below is a general guide to the problems that thumb sucking can cause and how to help your child break the habit.

What Causes Thumb Sucking and Is It Always Problematic? 

Thumb sucking is a natural behavior that serves a purpose -- it helps to ease the anxieties felt by babies and toddlers as they begin to explore the big world around them. 

If your child is a thumb sucker, you may be concerned with the future condition of their teeth and would like to discourage it sooner than later. While it's true that some children have great difficulty giving up this habit, thumb sucking isn't problematic in itself. Thumb sucking only becomes a problem when a child relies on the action too heavily, resulting in an unhealthy dependency. 

When It Becomes a Problem

Between the ages of two and four years old is when most children naturally break the habit and find other ways of soothing themselves. For some children, however, breaking the habit can be difficult and can lead to serious dental issues down the road.

Your child's dentist may look for signs of problems early on, such as changes in the roof of the mouth or improper alignment of teeth. If such signs are visible, thumb sucking is clearly becoming an issue and should be addressed sooner rather than later.  Over time, the suction can begin to draw your child's teeth forward which may then require braces to correct. Other issues that can occur as a result of prolonged thumb sucking include speech issues and tongue thrusting.

How to Help Your Child Break the Habit

Thumb sucking can be a difficult habit to break for a number of reasons. If you or your child's dentist are concerned about kid's thumb sucking habit, there are a few things you can do to help them break it.

Since most children suck their thumbs for comfort, it's important to understand the anxieties in your child's life and address them appropriately. Instead of scolding your child for thumb sucking, try to see if anything in the surrounding situation could be causing anxiety, and therefore, thumb sucking. Gentle reminders and praise work much better than forms of negative reinforcement. If all else fails, your dentist may suggest having your child fit with a dental cage that is placed at the roof of the mouth and prevents the thumb from fully entering.

If you're concerned with your child's thumb sucking habit, speak with their dentist. While many children break from this habit naturally, some may need a little extra help to avoid dental problems in the future. To learn more about the negative effects of prolonged thumb sucking and how you can help your child, talk to a pediatric dentist like those at Kids Dental Tree.