Should I Be Worried About My Child Sucking Their Thumb?

Thumbsucking has long been a natural instinct and reflex for toddlers and small children. Sucking on thumbs, pacifiers, the ends of clothing or other objects may contribute to making them feel safe and secure and help them learn more about their surroundings. Young children may also suck their thumb as a soothing mechanism or to help them fall asleep.

For whatever reason your child may tend to suck their thumb, it's important to note the effects this habit can cause in the future. We put together a few facts to give you a clear picture of thumbsucking in relation to your child's dental health. 

The Effects of Thumb Sucking On Your Child's Teeth

Once your child's baby teeth have completely fallen out and the permanent adult teeth begin to come in, sucking can cause problems with the proper growth and alignment of the mouth and teeth. It can also influence changes in the roof of the mouth.

A common remedy that's used by parents is pacifiers but these can also affect the teeth in essentially the same way as sucking fingers and thumbs but is often an easier habit to break.

What to take into account is the intensity of the sucking, this can determine whether or not dental problems may pose more of a risk. If children's lightly rest their thumbs in their mouth passively, they're less likely to have difficulty than those that strongly cling to sucking their thumbs. Some aggressive thumb-suckers can develop problems with both their baby (primary) teeth first, as well as affect the growth of their adult teeth as well. 

Do Children Stop Thumb-Sucking On Their Own & When? 

Children typically stop sucking their thumbs and other digits between the ages of two and four years old or by the time their permanent front teeth are ready to grow in. If you notice changes in your children's primary teeth or you're concerned about your child's thumb-sucking, we recommend consulting your dentist as they may be able to provide further tools to lessen this habit. 

What Are Some Ways You Can Stop Your Child From Thumb-Sucking? 

  • Positive reinforcement is always one of the most powerful methods, so praise your child for not sucking their thumb. 
  • Children may suck their thumbs when they're feeling insecure or in need of comfort. Focus on correcting the cause for the anxiety and provide comfort to your child through different means. 
  • Having your dentist sit and explain to your child what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop sucking can help your child feel more comfortable and bonded with their dentist as well as translating to them the importance of their message. 
  • For an older child, involve them in choosing the method of stopping that works best for them. 

If these tips don't work, remind your child of their habit by bandaging their thumb or putting a sock on their hand or hands at night. Your dentist or pediatrician may prescribe a bitter medical application to coat the thumb or the use of a mouth appliance in very severe cases. 

If you've found some helpful tips and tools to prevent your child from thumb sucking, feel free to drop us a line. We love to hear from you and your stories on your dental health journeys!

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