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Why Thumb Sucking Can Be Detrimental to Children | Family Dentist, Wichita, KS

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For many children, the act of thumb sucking is a natural reflex that initially begins when they are in the womb, but did you know that prolonged thumb sucking can become detrimental to your child’s oral health? While evidence suggests that children who break this habit before the age of four can oftentimes have their teeth correct themselves with normal growth, those who continue to feed this long-term habit may be subjected to severe long-term oral health problems. Our team at Cambridge Family Dentistry, your choice family dentist in Wichita, Kansas, has detailed everything you need to know about the effects of thumb sucking on your oral health. Learn more below!

  • Can Thumb Sucking Damage Your Teeth?

    While not all types of thumb sucking lead to damaged teeth, active and regular thumb sucking that includes excessive motion can cause damage to your primary or baby teeth. Oftentimes, this problem will correct itself as permanent teeth come in. Still, persistent thumb sucking may lead to further complications like the misalignment of your child’s permanent teeth and affect the shape of your jaw or the roof of your mouth. When children engage in thumb sucking, the pressure of the thumb resting against the gums can interfere with natural jaw growth and tooth eruption, causing crooked teeth and bite problems. Eventually, this can make it harder for a child to speak, chew, and retain food. Additionally, it exposes them to dirt, bacteria, and other viruses, which is why it is extremely important to stop the habit from forming early!

  • Long-Term Effects of Thumb Sucking

    Although it may seem trivial, routine thumb sucking at an early age can cause prolonged effects on the teeth and mouth. Because of the repetitive pressure the thumb and sucking put on the teeth, jawbone, and roof of the mouth, it may cause the following oral health problems:

    • An overbite, where the top teeth protrude from the jaw and mouth
    • Additional bite issues, such as an open bite where the top and bottom teeth don’t meet
    • Sensitivity of the roof of the mouth
    • Misalignment of teeth leading to speech impediments such as lisps
    • Misshapen palette and difficulties chewing
  • How To Discourage the Habit

    If you are concerned about your child’s thumb-sucking habits or your child is above the age of four and still sucks their thumb, our team recommends consulting with your family dentist in Wichita about different treatment strategies and ways to help them quit the damaging habit. It’s important to remember that the likelihood of success also depends on your child’s desire to quit, so you should begin by having a conversation with them about why and how they should relinquish the habit. Some of the best ways you can help your child include:

    • Evaluating Your Child’s Triggers: Each child’s thumb sucking is spurred by different triggers, whether arising out of boredom, tiredness, anxiousness, or hunger, and can become a self-soothing strategy during stressful situations. Attempt to target the root of their tendencies so that you can address them, but don’t allow it to become a means of getting attention, whether negative or positive!
    • Using Gentle Reminders: If your child is an absentminded thumbsucker, simply and calmly tell them to stop. While this can quickly become repetitive, keep this up. Repetition is key when forming or breaking a habit!
    • Investing in Thumb Shields: Soft plastic or fabric thumb guards are viable options for many children who mindlessly suck their thumb. This will be a consistent reminder not to engage in the bad habit and should be worn when they are most likely to suck their thumb.
    • Speaking With Your Family Dentist: Our team at Cambridge Family Dentistry recommends consulting with your family dentist if you are struggling to help your child break their thumb-sucking habit and are worried about their oral health. Your dentist will work with you to speak with your child and develop a new strategy!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in all articles published on the Cambridge Family Dentistry website do not necessarily reflect the views of our staff members at Cambridge Family Dentistry.

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