Your Child And Thumb-Sucking: What To Know About Dental Damage

26 October 2022
 Categories: Dentist, Blog

One of your child's first natural reflexes is to suckle and feed. That oral fixation, though, can continue past the infancy stage for some children. Thumb sucking is not a harmless habit — it can do damage to your child's teeth. Read on and learn more.

Thumb Sucking is Normal

Many children use objects or their thumbs to soothe themselves. They may also use a favorite toy, a blanket, a baby bottle, or even a sippy cup at times. Some children won't go down for a nap without something to comfort them. This type of behavior usually begins when they are first weaned from the bottle or breast. Many children gradually outgrow the habit, but it can also continue into adulthood for some.

How Thumb Sucking Does Damage

The below problems can occur if your child has thumb sucking habit:

  • Speech Impediments — Thumb sucking may affect the jaw, palate, and the formation of the teeth. That can result in a lisp or the ability to say words with a hard consonant like "B" or "T".
  • Teeth Misalignments — Thumb sucking can also create crooked teeth that will eventually require the use of braces to fix.
  • Top of Mouth Damage — Thumb sucking may cause the roof of the mouth to become narrow which can affect the child's ability to eat and taste food.
  • Delayed Eruptions — Thumb sucking can cause delays in the emergence of both baby teeth and permanent teeth.

What Parents Can Do

If your child is thumb-sucking when they begin to speak, take action soon. Once ingrained, speech habits are difficult to break. The longer it goes on, the more damage is likely to occur. Here are some tips that might help:

  1. If your child cannot seem to go to sleep without thumb sucking, a pacifier, or other objects, change how you prepare them for bed. Set up a routine that never changes. It would involve a bath, a book, a nightlight, a favorite toy, soft music, etc. The same routine every night can make them feel secure and more likely to stop using other soothers.
  2. If your child uses a pacifier, gradually begin to restrict its use. Start by not allowing them to use it during the day. Once that is successful, move on to nighttime use.
  3. Covering the child's hands with mittens has been successful for some parents.
  4. Some children only tend to use thumb sucking at certain times. For instance, they might turn to it in the car seat or while watching tv. Distracting them can work if you keep their fingers busy using a device, toy, or phone.

Finally, speak to a dentist at an office such as Elite Smile Center about your child's thumb-sucking habit to find out more tips.