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Is Thumb-Sucking Bad for a Child’s Oral Health?

AdobeStock 104056728 1599830046 42179 768x583 1Does your child suck their thumb? This common habit is normal when they are a baby or even a young toddler, but did you know the longer it goes on, the higher the risk for serious oral health problems? While it may be a comfort mechanism for your little one to sleep easier or soothe their anxiety when away from you, it’s best to find alternative ways to replace this type of non-nutritive habit. Read on to learn why allowing thumb-sucking in Katy can have negative consequences down the road as well as what you can do to curb this habit before it’s too late.

When Thumb-Sucking Leads to Serious Problems

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), when children reach the age of 4, they should no longer engage in thumb-sucking. Although a well-formed habit at this point, the continued pull on their front teeth can lead to developmental issues with their jaw and teeth. Depending on how hard your child sucks his or her thumb, it can cause changes in their palate and negatively affect their bite.

Here is a more thorough explanation of problems that can develop as a result of thumb-sucking:

  • Overbite or Open Bite: Most commonly, your child may develop an open bite if allowed to continue this habit. This is when the back teeth touch but the upper and bottom front teeth do not, even when they close their mouth. Also, an overbite can develop, which means the upper teeth stick out further than the bottom teeth. From gaps to misalignments of their teeth and jaw, your child may begin to have difficulty chewing as well as speech issues.
  • Changes in Facial Development: When additional pressure is placed because of sucking, your child’s jaw, mouth and facial muscles, and teeth will begin to shift unnaturally and distort the structure of their face. Not only does thumb-sucking make it harder for the jaw to position itself correctly, but over time, it can cause severe orofacial myological disorder (OMD), which will require complex treatment.
  • Speech Development: If your child has an open bite or overbite, their tongue may push forward and cause a lisp to form. When children suck their thumbs or use a pacifier for too long, they do not move their facial muscles as they should, reducing their ability to develop their speech and practice the formation of syllables and words.

Ways to Develop Positive Habits in Your Child

If you want to help your child stop sucking their thumb, the first step is to speak with a pediatric dentist in Katy. Their knowledge and expertise on the topic of non-nutritive habits will allow them to provide helpful tips and tricks to replace this potentially harmful activity with something more appropriate. Some of these suggestions include:

  • Limiting the amount of time your child is allowed to suck their thumb.
  • Offer an alternative comfort mechanism (i.e. soft blanket, stuffed toy).
  • Help your child to know when they are sucking their thumb. If they are doing it mindlessly, pointing it out will help them to become self-aware.
  • Give them an abundance of praise when they are making positive progress.

If you’re worried about the future of your child’s oral health and want to start making changes to their daily habits, don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s pediatric dentist. With the right tools and attitude, you and can help your little one be free of these non-nutritive habits and replace them with positive ones that don’t impact their smile.

About the Author
Dr. Adeel Khan is a board-certified pediatric dentist in Katy, TX. Having received his Doctor of Dental Medicine at the Boston University School of Dental Medicine and graduating Magna Cum Laude, he promises to provide his patients with accessibility, affordability, expertise, and fun appointments thanks to his animated personality. To help young children avoid serious dental problems in the future, he and his team can provide parents with helpful tips and suggestions to curb non-nutritive habits (i.e. thumb-sucking, pacifier use) in little ones. If you need help knowing what to do to keep your child from sucking his or her thumb, visit our website or call (832) 789-8348.