• Is thumb sucking bad for my child’s teeth?

    Is thumb sucking bad for my child’s teeth?

    How vigorously your child sucks their thumb will determine the amount of restriction or deviation that is caused by having thumbs or fingers in the mouth when the permanent teeth are pushing through (erupting) the gums to form.

    Sucking is a natural reflex in infants and young children. They can use thumbs, fingers, dummies, pacifiers and other objects to suck against to give them feelings of security and happiness at difficult times. For some infants sucking is so relaxing that they can develop a habit of thumb sucking to help them fall asleep.

    When thumb sucking continues after the eruption of the permanent teeth, it can cause problems with the proper growth of the jaw, mouth and tooth alignment (most often causing “buck teeth”). The intensity with which your child sucks on fingers or thumbs will determine whether or not dental problems may result.

    Children who rest their thumbs passively in their mouths are less likely to have dental difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs; mainly due to the amount of vacuum and pressure that is created by their sucking. Usually, kids stop naturally between the ages of 2 and 4 whilst others will likely stop due to peer pressure when they are school-aged.

    Pacifiers are no substitute for thumb sucking; anything that is vigorously sucked will cause disruptions to oral development and teeth alignment. However, from a parenting perspective, use of a pacifier can be controlled and modified more easily than the thumb or finger habit.

    If you have concerns about thumb sucking or giving your child a pacifier, consult your dentist. They are able to give you advice on warning signs to look out for and help you with information on what to do if you need to help your child break the habit.

    A few suggestions on what you can do to help your child break their thumb sucking habit

    1. Praise Your Child

    Praise your child whenever they go without the thumb in their mouth. Your child will respond faster to kind words than harsh scolding when it comes to behavioural changes.

    2. Teach Them Coping Skills

    Because anxiety and insecurity are common causes for children to seek pacification; by uncovering what and why they are experiencing these feelings you’ll be able to teach them better coping skills. When they have other ways of dealing with their emotions they don’t need thumb sucking.

    3. Make New Sleep Triggers

    When thumb sucking is being used as a trigger to fall asleep; introduce other things that would be better substitutes. It may be a change in the level of light in their room, may be sounds like a specific lullaby or some form of very specific routine of hugs and kisses between you and your child. An alternative trigger that helps your child off to sleep will help both them and you in the long run.

    4. Give Your Time, Attention & Comfort

    Some highly sensitive infants require greater reassurance and comfort from parents than other babies. Children who persistently suck their thumb may need extra special attention when it comes to comforting until they are able to develop their own emotional resilience. Children who fret when separated from their parents and suck their thumbs can be rewarded with your time and giving them focused parental attention for refraining from sucking during difficult periods such as separation.

    Leave a reply →