Thumb sucking is a common occurrence in infants that occasionally goes beyond this period. To soothe and comfort, much like using a pacifier, is the main goal of this habit. While it’s welcome for your young ones to get rid of this habit generally, it’s important to understand whether or not it is problematic for their teeth.
Thumb Sucking and Teeth Damage
If your child sucks its thumb, it does not necessarily mean that it will cause damage to the teeth. This depends on the intensity of the habit: if it includes a lot of motion and forceful pushing, it can lead to damage of primary teeth. Typically, these issues with baby teeth will correct over time as they are replaced with permanent teeth.
Occasionally though, if the habit extends and if it’s extremely vigorous, it can cause issues with teeth, jaw, and the roof of the mouth. Permanent teeth misalignment is the worst possible scenario and deformity you would want to avoid if you notice such behavior.
Exposure to bacteria absorbed through hands when infants engage in thumb sucking can lead to bacterial infections and viruses.
Long-Term Thumb Sucking Effects on Teeth and Mouth
When your child sucks its thumb, especially if this happens often, it puts a whole lot of pressure on the teeth and mouth. Repetitive pressure on the teeth, the roof of the mouth, and jawbone can cause serious deformities:
• Overbite – protrusion of the front teeth beyond the jawline and mouth
• Jaw shape deformity – it can also cause teeth misalignment and potentially disrupt speech patterns (lisp development)
• Bite issues – open bite (lack of meeting between the top and bottom teeth), teeth tipping inwards and others
• Sensitivity and soreness of the roof of the mouth
Generally, if the habit is dropped by the time permanent teeth grow, it’s unlikely to see any of the described problems. However, if it goes well beyond this period and if the habit is severe, your child could risk the problems described above.
When to Visit the Dentist?
The first permanent teeth will appear at the age of 6. Before even getting to that age, you should form a habit of regular visits to the dentist starting from the first year. Baby teeth are a foundation for permanent teeth, and monitoring oral hygiene is important. Especially in cases where there is a possibility to have damage to teeth from thumb sucking.
How to Help Your Child Stop Thumb Sucking?
Since thumb sucking is a fairly similar supplement to breastfeeding and pacifiers, it produces the same effect: relaxing and soothing comfort helping our infants calm and fall into sleep. To best help your child kick this habit, you need to consider all angles and the age of your child.
If the child is older and can respond to reasoning and conversations, try making it understand that it shouldn’t engage in the praxis. Should you face problems with this approach or if your child is simply way too small try the following:
• Thumb shields – Plastic or fabric-covered thumb guards preventing children from sucking their teeth. During sleep or in peak periods mittens can be used as well.
• Orthodontic device – Removable or non-removable orthodontic devices are excellent tools for thumb sucking prevention. The pediatric orthodontist will help you choose the right one for your child
• Visit a dentist
If your child is sucking its thumb and if you fear that it will cause damage to its teeth, our pediatric dentists will help you find the right way to help them overcome this habit. Schedule your appointment, today.