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Thumb Sucking: Negative Affects and Consequences on Children’s Teeth

Thumb-sucking and consequences

How many times have we heard the comments “My kid still sucking his thumb” or “How can stop my child from sucking her thumbs.”

These statements and questions are more common than we thought. As parents, we get frustrated with the fact that our child has the bad habit of sucking his thumb.

In the beginning, we find it easier to allow our children to suck their thumbs instead of fighting them to stop doing it.

The habit is a way to relieve boredom or tension. We might think this is a normal process, and every child goes through this. But honestly, thumb-sucking can affect in different ways our children’s oral health.

At a young age, most of the parents don’t take note of it nor how to stop thumb sucking either. We can believe the kid will stop doing this when getting older.

But then, it becomes more worrisome as the years go by.

Why Do Children Suck Their Thumbs?

kids thumb sucking
Children are born with natural sucking reflexes; this causes them to place anything around them to their mouth, from their fingers to the toys they have around.

By doing this, children develop their methods to comfort themselves as they feel secured around objects.

However, this usage must be reduced as their teeth begin to appear; otherwise, they can cause dental problems.

Some of the most common problems which dentist see in children who have had this habit are:

Overbite

It can be just a simple position problem in which the upper teeth are misplaced forward.

Like open bite misalignments, overbite occurs when the teeth become directed outward.

In an overbite, the misalignment occurs in the upper front teeth.

This misalignment means that the top teeth cover the bottom teeth when your child’s mouth is closed rather than the top and bottom teeth touching typically.

Speech Impediment

Thumb-sucking affects the development of the teeth, jaw, and palate; the habit can also change how our child eats and speaks.

Thumb-sucking may cause some speech impediments, including an inability to pronounce hard consonant sounds like “D” and “T.”

Without the correct dental care for our child, the distorted sounds are caused by the shape of the child’s teeth in relation to the tongue.

Open Bite

The most severe permanent effects of thumb-sucking are types of dental misalignments.

Two of the most common types of misalignments caused by thumb-sucking are open bite and overbite.

Open bite occurs when the top and bottom front teeth become directed outward.

This misalignment means that the front teeth do not touch, even with your child’s mouth closed completely.

An open bite may require orthodontic correction in the future or may complicate other dental misalignments that necessitate orthodontic treatment.

Thumb Sucking Modifies Tongue Position

One of the most preoccupying consequences of thumb sucking is that it changes the posture and position of the tongue.

The tongue is a central conductor in teeth arch growth. Airways can be smaller when there is weak dental growth, and it causes sleep-disordered breathing later in children’s life.

These signs of poor or inadequate breathing include bedwetting, daytime tiredness, snoring while sleeping, restless leg syndrome, among others.

 

What can we do for our children to help them drop this bad habit?

Here are a few recommendations provided by the experts:

  • Praise a child for not sucking their thumbs, instead of punishing, and this will have a better effect on the child. The child will try to get those praises, and they will avoid the habit of sucking their thumbs until they finally get over it.

 

  • Because sucking can result in the feeling of insecurity, address the “cause of the anxiety and comfort the child.” Talk to the child and try to understand why she or he feels the necessity of sucking their thumbs. Sometimes, children get this habit as a form of feeling secured, maybe they want protection, so there is nothing better we can do than talk to our children and remove those fears they might feel.
  • Provide rewards when a child avoids sucking. You can notice after talking to the child that they might try to avoid this habit, so take time and tell them that you are happy for the effort. We all like to be recognized, so do not take the opportunity to let them know you are noticing their aim of avoiding thumb-sucking.

 

  • Ask a dentist to help to explain to the child what may happen to the teeth if the child’s habit continues. Sometimes our children will not listen to what we are saying because they might think we do not know, but coming from an expert, the dentist, they can pay attention and follow the instructions given.

 

  • Offer distractions; this will help the child to divert from sucking; instead, time used to play, keeping their mind busy from the notion of sucking.

 

  • Start early: you need to start as soon as you noticed the thumb sucking habit. The youngest the better and the easier will be.

 

Bottom Line

To know how to stop thumb sucking it is essential to understand some things. First of all, children develop thumb sucking as a natural habit.

As a parent, we must check how the child is progressing and them to reduce this habit without making them feel bad.

It can be hard at the beginning, as we can get frustrated if we do not see fast improvement, but we must keep calm.

Talking to our children, explaining, and showing them consequences about this habit can help them understand the importance of not doing thumb-sucking anymore.

It will be a process between parent and child, it depends on both of you and not only one side.

So again, patience and empathy are needed to see progress on this.

Also, get the help of your dentist. Kids always pay attention to people wearing a uniform. So they may want to try that as well when taking your child to the dental visit.

Dr. Cirenia Aparicio
Dr. Cirenia Aparicio
Dr. Cirenia Aparicio Miranda is our dentist in Tijuana and is hands down the best Mexico dentist.Distinguished by being one of the few members of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, Dr. Aparicio Miranda ́s work is synonymous with excellence and quality.She is a Mexico dentist accredited by the AACD and U.S. licensed dentist. With over 20 years of experience in the field of dentistry, Dr. Aparicio Miranda has changed the lives of thousands through her devotion to Dentistry and tender care.

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