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A growing child likely to experience thumb sucking effects on dental health

The Potential Thumb Sucking Effects on Teeth for Your Child & How to Prevent Them

Sucking on pacifiers or teethers can be soothing and entertaining for children. Even as they continue to grow, this tendency may not go away. When you take away these objects, they often transition to thumb sucking. While thumb sucking effects aren’t an issue early on, it can be a concern as they near the eruption of their permanent teeth.

Read on to learn more about common thumb sucking effects and what you can do as a parent to help your child’s healthy dental development.

What Type of Thumb Sucking Effects Can Happen to Teeth?

Despite the positive emotional benefits of thumb sucking, it genuinely can have negative effects on the development of your child’s mouth. This is due to the pressure from both from sucking the thumb and the actual thumb itself over long periods of time.

The most common types of thumb sucking effects are:

Open Bite – This is one of the more damaging effects of long-term thumb sucking in growing children. An open bite is when the upper and lower teeth misalign and point slightly outward. This will prevent their teeth from touching, even when their mouth is fully closed.

Overbite – An overbite, as the name suggests, is when the upper teeth are positioned in a way that they layer over the bottom teeth when the mouth is closed. Like any malocclusion, this can have negative effects for everything from speaking to eating, along with aesthetic concerns for the children as they grow.

Jaw Development – The age where thumb sucking tends to be common is also the age where growth is happening fast. Excessive thumb sucking can have negative effects on how your child’s jaw developments, leading to issues ranging from malocclusion to eating problems or even speech impediments

Irritation – Both the thumb your child prefers, and the roof of their mouth where they suck their thumb, can develop issues like irritation or sensitivity due to the constant effect of thumb sucking.

Does All Thumb Sucking Cause Negative Problems?

No, thumb sucking isn’t always a cause for concern. Some children rely on thumb sucking to help soothe themselves occasionally instead of constantly. In these instances, there isn’t a reason to be worried about their development.

Most parents (and doctors) can easily recognize a child who is habitually thumb sucking because they’ll be frequently spotted engaging in the behavior.

At What Age Should Children Be Redirected from Thumb Sucking?

At ages under four, there’s rarely a major issue other than the risk of thumb sucking turning into a long-term habit. It’s not until the child is starting to age into their permanent teeth that most pediatricians, dentists or orthodontists will suggest some type of intervention to help reduce this behavior in your child.

The big turning point is usually around age six. As they get closer to this age, thumb sucking should be something that has been replaced with other ways of self-soothing or distraction. One their permanent teeth begin to erupt, it’s important to avoid anything that might lead to negative repositioning of their teeth, which is often something like thumb sucking.

How to Help Reduce the Effects of Thumb sucking & Thumb Sucking Behavior

It’s important to remember that children use thumb sucking both to entertain themselves and to soothe themselves when they may otherwise be distressed. For that reason, you don’t want to punish them for the behavior, as it may only lead them to suck their thumbs more frequently (particularly when you aren’t paying attention!)

Instead, you can use redirection techniques and help guide them towards other habits that may help break them of the need for thumb sucking. Over time, a reduction to complete cessation will help fight thumb sucking effects on their dental health, along with the social benefits of a child not being teased by classmates as they begin their social journey through school.

Here are some tips to prevent long-term effects of thumb sucking:

Pay Attention for the Causes – If certain events, behaviors or times of day are triggering your child to suck their thumb, you may need to address these. By solving these problems, you can indirectly reduce thumb sucking behavior, while also reducing their general stress throughout the day!

Redirect Their Attention – Sometimes, thumb sucking is their go-to when they’re bored. Try to engage with your child and see if giving them something to do, like playing with toys, reading a book together, or anything else can draw their attention away from sucking their thumb.

Avoid Negative Reactions – Shaming your child for thumb sucking often has the opposite effect that you may want. Use positive reinforcement to help them ease away from the desire to suck their thumb.

Will My Child Need Orthodontic Treatment Due to Negative Effects of Thumb Sucking?

For some children, long-term thumb sucking will lead them to needing either early intervention treatment or standard orthodontic treatment when they’re a bit older. Braces will help bring malocclusions with their teeth back to a healthy position.

Orthodontic treatment following thumb sucking effects on their teeth will improve their quality of life, and may even fix some issues they have with eating or speech!


Contact Dr. Andy Today!

Don’t let anything sidetrack you on the road to a healthy, attractive smile. If you have questions or concerns about foods to avoid with braces, schedule an appointment with Dr. Andy!

Phone: (440) 842-8015


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