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How Can Thumb Sucking Affect My Child’s Teeth?

added on: December 20, 2019
baby sucking thumb

Many kids suck their thumbs, and it’s an incredibly common habit. After all, it can help kids self-soothe and feel safe and comfortable. But your pediatric dentist in Spring wants all parents to know that there are some risks that go along with thumb sucking.

What Are The Risks of Thumb Sucking?

Again, it’s completely normal for babies and toddlers to suck their thumbs, but if the habit continues past the age of two, it can start to put your child at risk for some serious oral health concerns. Habitual thumb sucking puts constant and abnormal pressure on the soft tissues in the roof of the mouth and sides of the upper jaw. When this occurs during growth and development (past two years old), it may cause the top jaw to narrow and upper teeth to no longer match up ideally with the lower teeth. This is known as a bad bite, and it’s nothing to take lightly. A bad bite can impair speech development in little ones and they may need speech therapy to correct it. Misaligned teeth can also require more advanced dental treatment in the future in order to correct the bite. By working with your child to stop sucking his thumb early, these risks decrease.

But just how do you keep a toddler from sucking his thumb when it’s something he enjoys and makes him feel safe? Your Spring pediatric dentist has some tips.

Tips to Help Stop Your Child From Sucking His Thumb

Limit When Thumb Sucking Is Ok. Just like any habit, trying to encourage your child to simply stop sucking his thumb ‘cold-turkey’ may not work. Instead, try reducing the amount of time he spends thumb sucking by limiting the habit to acceptable times. For example, start to encourage your child to not suck his thumb during the day or while in public. Try to start him off by allowing it only during naps and at bedtime. This can help your child slowly break the habit.

Don’t Scold, Do Celebrate. Since thumb sucking is often a comforting habit, your child may rely on it when he’s nervous, anxious, or worried. Knowing this, it’s important to not scold your child when he does suck his thumb outside of allowed times. It could make it worse. Instead, kindly and calmly remind him that thumb sucking is for bedtime only. Additionally, make sure you celebrate and praise him when goes without sucking his thumb.

Talk to Your Child. Kids are smart and appreciate being talked to as an equal. So before you start to work with him on breaking the thumb sucking habit, talk to him. Tell him that you’d like to help him stop and that you’re there to encourage him and that you’re in this together. Talking to him while he’s actually sucking may help make him more aware of the habit. It’s completely possible he may be doing it and not even realize it.

If your child is a thumb sucker and is close to two years old, or is older and hasn’t stopped, contact your pediatric dentist in Spring. Your dental team can help monitor oral health and resolve any concerns early. They may also have some tricks up their sleeves to help your little one stop the habit once and for all.