Why Thumb Sucking Is A Problem For Your Child's Teeth

Posted on: 28 June 2016


In many cases, babies suck their thumbs even before they are born. For babies that need comfort after birth, it is advisable to use a pacifier since it is much easier to control. Thumb sucking is a much harder habit to break as you can't take your child's thumb away the same way you can take away his/her pacifier. Experts recommend that you should stop your child from sucking their thumb between the age of 2 and 4, if your child does not replace this coping mechanism with an alternative on his/her own.

Damages from Sucking

Thumb sucking can cause a number of problems, including speech and bite issues as a result of misaligned front teeth. It is possible for the upper and lower jaws to end up out of alignment. The roof of the mouth can also become arched, a condition known as open bite. The front teeth may push forward resulting in speech and bite issues. Finally, thumb sucking can cause speech issues, such as difficulty pronouncing the "s" sounds.

What to Do

Don't scold or punish the child because the child might become defensive, which will only increase their need for comfort and more thumb sucking. Instead, use rewards or praise to help eliminate the problem. For example, you might place stickers on a calendar for 'suck-free' days or schedule a special outing. You can also plan an extra play date with a best friend.

If positive reinforcement isn't enough, there are some other things you can try. After the child goes to sleep, simply, remove the thumb from the mouth. You can also try covering the thumb with a pretty Band-Aid. If the child is older, try using surgical tape with the pretty Band-Aid. If stress is the root cause, then removing the source of the anxiety will likely reduce or eliminate the habit.

If the above options do not stop the behavior, it might be time to consult a dentist, who can explain to an older child the results of thumb sucking. Use pictures to show the child the damage that can occur from the habit. If all else fails, ask the dentist for an appliance called a tongue crib for the child's mouth to prevent sucking. The tool trains the tongue to stop going between the lower and upper teeth.

Parents must remain persistent when dealing with a child that has the thumb sucking habit. It may take time and patience, but it is necessary for the benefit of the child's future smile. Contact a dentist, such as Robert L. Edmonstone, DDS, for more information.