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Does Thumb-sucking Really Cause Dental Issues?

Posted on 1/15/2024 by Weo Admin
Dentist and child learn how to brush teethAdults often have fond memories of when they were really young, and their thumb or pacifiers were all it took to soothe them when they were upset. Although both thumb-sucking and pacifier use teach babies and toddlers to self-soothe, they can cause problems with the mouth in the long term.

How Long Can My Child Suck Their Thumb?

Thumb-sucking is not something adults teach children how to do. Instead, babies often come out of the womb sucking on their thumbs, fingers, or fists. It is okay for your infant to use their thumbs, fists, or pacifiers for a while. However, when your child begins to talk a lot, it may be time to wean them off thumb-sucking.

You will want to begin to wean a child off thumb sucking because as their baby teeth begin to fall out, permanent teeth will replace them. The mouth begins to take shape as they grow, and thumb-sucking can begin to alter that process.

Repercussions From Thumb-sucking

Children who suck their thumbs well into childhood can have issues with their bites. Often, children who suck their thumbs can develop overbites or crossbites. Both overbites, where the top teeth come down too far over the lower teeth, and crossbites, where the upper and lower jaws do not align, can be corrected by an orthodontist. Crossbites, overbites, and underbites, if they are not corrected, can lead to problems with jaw pain.

Also, if your child sucks their thumb long enough, they can even develop tooth crowding, as their teeth bunch together due to pressure from the thumb. These teeth are difficult to keep clean through brushing and flossing because they crowd together.

What Should I Do?

If you have a young child who is still sucking their thumb, you can begin to discourage them gently from thumb-sucking. Offer them positive reinforcement when they are not sucking their thumbs. You may want to start a sticker chart to keep track of the times they are not practicing thumb-sucking and give them a larger reward once their chart is filled out. Before you know it, your child will be able to self-soothe without sucking their thumb. Our pediatric dentist can also offer you more ways to help your child break the thumb-sucking habit.

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