Why Thumb Sucking Harms Teeth

  • Why Thumb Sucking Harms Teeth

Many children suck on their thumbs for comfort. This sucking reflex is usually outgrown by the age of four, right around the time a child enters elementary or primary school. For children who continue to thumb sucking beyond this age, severe dental problems and other complications can develop.

Here are some reasons why prolonged thumb sucking can harm a child’s teeth:

  1. It affects the oral cavity or dentition. “Dentition” refers to the condition of the teeth and their arrangement. Children who repeatedly suck on thumbs risk the chance of developing malocclusions or an “improper bite” — which may require orthodontic treatment in the future.
  2. It invites more germs into a child’s mouth. Constantly sucking on non-sterile thumbs allow germs on the hand to enter the mouth, possibly causing illness or infection.
  3. It can lead to speech difficulties. Thumb-suckers can be more likely to develop lisps when they speak. Prolonged thumbsucking affects jaw position, which affects speech.

To prevent dental complications, parents can gently encourage children to break the thumb sucking habit.

Here are some tips for ending thumb sucking:

  • Educate your children. Inform your child about the possible health consequences from this habit.
  • Reward good behaviour. Offer praise (or little prizes) at moments when they stop; perhaps create a “sticker chart” where they can collect a certain number of stickers for days they don’t suck their thumbs — offer a reward when they collect stickers 21 days in a row.
  • Keep your child busy. Distract your child by encouraging them to do activities involving their hands. Some include: colouring, painting, or active board games.
  • Wrap the thumbs. Sometimes children aren’t aware they suck thumbs while sleeping. In this case, wrap their thumbs with bandages or a thin cloth. Some parents also apply mittens at bedtime. Make sure nothing you use can be a choking hazard.

Why Thumb Sucking Harms Teeth

For most children, thumb sucking is a habit that resolves itself and is not too harmful before permanent teeth erupt. However, prolonged thumbsucking can eventually lead to dental problems and affect jaw alignment. Preventive measures like education and rewards encourage a child to wean this habit. Regular dental visits may also help your child understand how teeth can affect their health and appearance in the future.

Why Thumb Sucking Harms Teeth

In London, Ontario, Cosmo Dental Centre offers children’s dentistry services and encourage children to keep their teeth and gums in tip-top shape! Please call us at (519) 659-2767 and schedule an appointment for your child today.

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