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Kids Dentist Countryside

Many children suck their thumbs at some point in their lives. This natural form of self-soothing stems from a newborn’s natural reflex to seek nourishment, and can often be transferred to other objects such as thumbs, pacifiers, or other toys. Often seen in younger children, most soothing forms of sucking stop naturally over time. Sometimes, however, the habit grows and becomes imbedded in a child’s behavior. Some parents may see the habit as endearing, but it can actually have a harmful impact on the child’s tooth development and overall oral health! Read on to learn more about the negative oral side effects of thumb sucking and learn some tips on stopping the habit.

Teeth Misalignment

Repeated sucking actions can push teeth to tip forward, causing issues with alignment. Sometimes this manifests as an anterior open bite, where the teeth touch at the back molars but the front teeth do not connect. It can also cause a posterior crossbite, where molars underbite and front teeth overbite. Lastly, it could lead to an anterior excessive overjet, where the top teeth overhang the bottom drastically.

Palatal Narrowing

Thumb sucking can cause the roof of the mouth to narrow, never reaching its intended size and shape. This can cause the whole mouth to narrow and also lead to problems with nasal breathing, as the roof of the mouth may be forced upwards into the nasal passage.

Poor Speech Development

Because of the impact on tooth positioning and mouth formation, thumb sucking can lead to speech impediments. Thumb sucking can cause lisping, difficulties with making “D” and “T” sounds, as well as other minor impediments. Some of these issues may not be correctable even through speech therapy because of the way the mouth has formed. Speech impediments can make communication difficult for children, causing feelings of frustration, isolation, and anger.

There Is Hope!

Thumb sucking is a natural habit that can be unlearned almost as easily as it was learned. While many children naturally give up the habit between the ages of 2 and 4, some will need to be weaned from the trait. Replacing the thumb with a pacifier is a good place to start, as the pacifier can be gradually taken away as the habit is unlearned. Positive reinforcement goes a long way, and routine praise of a child who isn’t sucking his or her thumb will condition them to avoid the habit. If your child sucks their thumb in their sleep, bedtime mittens can help prevent them from doing so. The process may take time, but the benefits are worth the efforts of both parent and child!

Early oral healthcare is important, so be sure to bring your child to the dentist around their first birthday. This can help to protect their baby teeth—which are as crucial to their oral health as their permanent ones—and establish the oral hygiene skills that will stay with them for life. By bringing your child to the dentist from an early age, your child can build trust with their dentist and learn positive health behaviors.

To schedule your child’s first dental appointment, or to ask questions about the effects of thumb sucking, call Countryside Dental Group today!