Thumb Sucking and Your Childs Teeth

The Dangers Of An Innocent Habit

Sucking on a thumb or finger is an extremely common habit that babies develop at a very young age. The reason we suck our thumbs as babies is because it’s soothing. As a baby explores their environment and learns more about themselves, sucking on a thumb is a way to make contact with their body. 

Unfortunately, while it may seem like a perfectly innocent happen, it can have some negative repercussions if the habit continues on past the age of 3.

Why Is A Thumb Sucking Habit Bad?

A child’s younger years are full of rapid development and growth, including the mouth and their teeth. As a child sucks on their thumb or finger, the pressure of it resting against the gums can interfere with normal tooth eruption and jaw growth, leading to bite issues. It’s very common for those with a thumb sucking habit to develop an “open bite” meaning the teeth don't overlap when a child bites together as they should with a natural bite, instead leaving an open space between the upper and lower teeth. In the long run, this can cause various dental and orthodontic issues, which is why it’s important to attempt to break the habit of thumb sucking before it’s too late.

How To Stop A Thumb Sucking Habit

Commonly, children are very capable of breaking the thumb sucking habit on their own.  So if you child does suck thier thumb while they’re young, the best thing to do is to not actively try to stop it right away. However, if your child does continue the habit past the typical age, below are some tips on helping them to break the habit. These tips have a focus on positive reinforcement, since they are more effective in breaking bad habits with kids compared to negative reinforcement. Also, we recommend talking to your child and explaining why thumb sucking is bad before you try any of these methods to ensure that you’re communicating with your child and establishing and understanding.

  • Praise & Reward - Reward your child for not sucking their thumb by offering them something they enjoy in exchange. Also, focus on not scolding your child when they do suck their thumb, and instead give them praise when they stop.
  • Comfort & Distract - Thumb sucking is a hand-to-mouth habit, so an effective method is keeping their hands occupied with games and activities, or even treating them to a special snack to get them to stop sucking their thumb.
  • Connect With Your Child - You know your child best, so maybe there is something that they love that will really connect with them that you can use to break the habit. Such as if they have a role model (parent, sibling, etc.), you can show them how they don’t suck their thumb to inspire them to be more like them.
  • Bring In The Experts - If your child sucks her thumb, fingers, or a pacifier, be sure to let their orthodontist know and schedule an appointment for them.  We can talk to her and help her understand how it will help her teeth to kick the habit. If necessary, we can fit her with a special oral appliance called a tongue crib, which is designed to prevent thumb sucking and can usually break the habit in a few months.

Help Your Child Have A Healthier Future!

If your kids have a thumb sucking habit and you’re having trouble breaking it, just contact us at Pedodontics, P.C. and we’ll help you achieve good oral health for your kids, and give them bright smiles for years to come. It’s crucial to maintain your child’s regular schedule of dental and orthodontic exams starting by their 1st year, and Pedodontics, P.C. is the place where you can ensure that they’ll be in good hands. Schedule an appointment with us today!