How Thumb Sucking Affects Your Child’s Teeth

While thumb sucking may seem all cute and adorable, thumb sucking can serious effects on your child’s teeth. As an infant it very common and even acceptable for an infant to use a pacifier or suck their thumbs, but as they get older it can start to cause problems. But why is this? How you stop it? When should you stop it?

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Why do babies/children suck their thumbs?

Thumb sucking usually occurs in infants around six months or around age two. According to the American Dental Association, thumb sucking can even be seen when a child is in the womb. Children tend to suck their thumbs as a natural reflex to give themselves comfort, make them feel secure and happy. They can use thumb sucking as a way to cope when they feel anxious or scared or even to lull them to sleep.

How does thumb sucking affect your child’s teeth?

When a child puts their thumb or even a pacifier in their mouth, the pressure of their thumb (or pacifier) on their gums to mess with their normal tooth formation and jaw growth. When teeth begin to grow, the upper teeth grow to overlap the bottom row. But if they suck their thumb, they can develop an ‘open bite’, so their teeth don’t overlap and instead, there is a space between two rows of teeth. If it continues past a certain age, the teeth may end up jutting out or even affect the alignment of future, permeant teeth as well. Not to mention, it could lead to bacteria and even viruses for putting a dirty finger in their mouths. 

How long is it acceptable for a child to suck their thumbs?

Many children stop sucking their thumbs on their own between ages two and four. So, it’s not an immediate concern until the child’s permanent teeth come in, but the American Dental Association says that it’s best to stop before age three or four so that the habit does not become ingrained or cause any permanent damage.

How can you stop children from sucking their thumbs?

This won’t necessarily be an easy task, after all, it is a coping mechanism to make them feel better and feel safe. One of the first things you can do is look out for the triggers as to why they are sucking their thumb, and instead do something else that will make them feel safe, like giving them a hug, giving them a stuffed animal to hug, or use loving and reassuring words. When you see it happening, use positive reminders to stop, never scold. You can also use positive reinforcement when you see that they aren’t doing it. And of course, you can ask for help from your pediatric dentist!

Final thoughts!

Thumb sucking is a natural habit that occurs before the child is even born. While it’s not cause for immediate concern, once past age three, it is time to break the habit with help from your pediatric dentist.