Dental Effects of Thumb Sucking

February 12, 2018

Thumb sucking is a common habit in children from infancy to age four. Some reasons children suck their thumb include boredom, hunger, fatigue, or stress. However, this seemingly harmless habit can start affecting their dental health at five to six years of age. At this point, ending the habit is necessary to avoid potentially serious dental problems.

 

 

 

 

Here are the potential long-term effects of thumb sucking on a child’s dental health:

 

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1. The pressure of sucking the thumb can create changes in the structure of your child’s teeth. At age five or six, permanent teeth start to come in. The force of thumb sucking can push teeth around, causing such conditions as an underbite, overbite, or “buck teeth” Vigorous thumb suckers are also more likely to develop malocclusion, a condition where the teeth grow in the wrong places.

2. Thumb sucking can cause changes in the swallowing pattern and tongue positioning of a child. Tongue position can later contribute to sleep apnea.

3. Thumb sucking throughout the developmental years can misshape the delicate bones of the palate. This alters the natural structure and dimension of the face and jaw, possibly distorting the facial appearance.

4. Due to its ability to change the shape of the mouth, prolonged thumb sucking can cause difficulty pronouncing and articulating certain sounds and letters.

5. When a child continues to thumb suck, the roof of the mouth becomes intensely curved, reducing the space between the teeth on the left and right side of the jaw. This narrowed palate prevents the upper jaw from positioning properly with the lower jaw.

 

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Helping Your Child Overcome Thumb Sucking

While breaking your child’s habit can be challenging, it can be successful if done carefully. Here are some simple tips to help:

  • Do not punish your child for a thumb sucking habit. This can cause stress, which could make them suck their thumb more.
  • Creating a reward system is a great way to encourage a child to refrain from sucking for a certain period of time. This eventually empowers them to break their habit.
  • Praising children for not sucking their thumbs, especially during a stressful situation, creates positive reinforcement.
  • Offering sugarless gum as an alternative to sucking not only helps prevent the negative habit, it increases the production of saliva, which keeps teeth clean.

 

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A major way to protect your child’s dental structure is to stop a thumb sucking habit as early as possible. If you need a children’s dentist in Oshawa to help, call Simcoe Smile Dental at (905) 728-2321. Our warm and welcoming staff make every effort to make your child’s dental visit a positive experience.

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