Can Thumb Sucking Affect Your Child’s Dental Health?

child sucking her thumb
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Thumb sucking may look cute on your child, but letting them do it vigorously can cause their teeth to get misaligned in the long run. Thumbsucking doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll damage a child’s teeth immediately. However, actively doing it involves a lot of motion that can damage your child’s baby teeth. Persistent thumb sucking can affect a child’s jaw, which causes their teeth to get misaligned. Even more, this repetitive action can also get your child exposed to dirt and bacteria, too. Although dental clear aligners can fix the issue once your child grows old, it’s still best to prevent it from happening as early as possible.

Long-term Effects of Thumb Sucking

One of the significant long-term effects of vigorous thumb sucking is an overbite. It usually results in protruding front teeth from the jaw. Thumb sucking also increases the sensitivity of the roof of the mouth. Thus, making it difficult to drink cold or hot foods. That’s because children who continue with the habit even after reaching the age of five puts unnecessary pressure on the mouth and teeth. Experts say that the front teeth may start to jut out, causing the child’s bite to open. Once this happens, the upper and lower front teeth wouldn’t grow as it should. The skeletal muscles will also begin to affect the alignment of both secondary or permanent teeth. So, before it does, visiting a child’s dentist is a must.

How to Deal with Thumb Sucking

thumbs up from a child

If you notice your child sucking their thumb and ant to stop doing it, there are ways to help discourage your child from doing it. But the chances of success mainly depends on their age. When it comes to older children, speaking with your child may be enough to resolve the issue. It’s true, especially when other children tease them about it. You can use peer pressure as an effective deterrent in kids who are about to enter preschool. If your child is still persistent, then it’s best to ignore him or her for a while. There are times when paying more attention to them pushes them to do it even more.

It would help if you also tried to notice the triggers that cause your child to do it. There are times when children thumb suck whenever they feel bored or anxious. If they appear to do it as a way to soothe themselves during stressful times, then try to see if you can address it. Meanwhile, if you notice that they’re doing it randomly, try to see if you can engage them in activities that require them to use their hands.

You can also use positive reinforcement to help your child get over the behavior. You can engage your child by praising them when they’re not doing it or let them track the days that they’re not doing it using a sticker chart.

Thumb sucking is a natural reflex that everyone does when they’re a child. Although children naturally resolve it on their own, doing it past the age of four can damage their mouths. So, parents should break the habit as soon as possible to prevent it from happening.

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