Does Thumb Sucking Impact My Child’s Teeth?

Affects Of Thumb sucking on childs teeth

As a parent, it’s easy to be worried about behavior that could potentially have long-term effects on their child’s health. Dental and orthodontic health are commodities that are emerging and now more freely and readily available to children than ever before. Many children require braces or headgear to correct cosmetic or medical concerns. Parents may wonder, if their young child sucks their thumb, how it may impact their child’s dental health in the future. This article will address common questions and concerns regarding thumb-sucking.

Does Thumb-Sucking Damage Teeth?

This really depends on your child’s specific behavior. Many children, as all parents know, often like to have things in their mouth, whether it be their own hand, toys, or really anything they can get their hands on! If the child simply has their thumb in their mouth and is not actively sucking on it, the likelihood that this will cause long term damage to the teeth is low. While it is okay for the teeth for the child to have their thumb in their mouth, it may cause the child to be exposed to potentially harmful viruses and bacteria, as well as dust/dirt from the ground. When the child is old enough, enforcing good hand hygiene habits may prevent the child from getting sick.

While inactively having the thumb in the mouth may not inflict harm, children who actively suck on their thumb may cause some damage. Baby teeth are sensitive, and thumb sucking may cause them to loosen or be damaged. The good news is, any damage that is caused to baby teeth by thumb sucking usually does not impact the health of adult teeth when they come in later in the child’s life.

What Are The Long-Term Side Effects Of Thumb Sucking?

There are some long-term side effects of chronic, active thumb sucking.

Roof Of Mouth Sensitivity

This may not seem like a large problem, but thumb sucking may cause the roof of the child’s mouth to become more sensitive. This may, in fact, cause feeding issues with the child, especially when introducing foods that are very hot or cold.

Overbite & Underbite

Actively sucking on the thumb, especially with excessive force, should shape the child’s bite. Overbites are common and can be corrected later with braces and headgear with the help of an orthodontist. It is important to remember that children may develop overbites without thumb sucking as well. Since dental and orthodontic procedures can be expensive, helping ease the child out of the thumb-sucking habits, such as trying to replace thumb sucking with a comfort item like a stuffed animal or blanket, may be beneficial.

Teeth Alignment

Thumb sucking may impact the shape of the child’s jaw, thus causing improper teeth alignment. After permanent teeth come in your child’s mouth, thumb-sucking may cause problems with proper growth and alignment of the teeth. It can also cause changes to the roof of your child’s mouth.

Rest assured that these issues typically do not cause long-term problems, given that the child’s thumb-sucking habits are broken by the time their adult teeth come in.

At What Age Should My Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb?

Each child is unique and on their own timeline. The earlier you can try to break this habit the better, as if the habit continues later into adolescence, it can cause long-term damage that will require dental and orthodontic work to correct. If your child is old enough, involve your child in this process instead of forcing solutions onto them. For example, you could ask them for solutions and other healthier habits that could replace thumb sucking.

In the end, it is important not to worry too much about your child’s thumb sucking. Be cognizant and aware of thumb sucking that progresses past when adult teeth are in, and be sure to consult with your dentist if you have any other concerns. Your dental team is highly trained and equipped to address these issues, and will be happy to work with you and your child to ensure the best dental health possible.

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