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How Can Thumb-Sucking Affect Your Child’s Oral Health?

March 11, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — midlandkidsdentist @ 4:50 pm
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Pacifier use and thumb-sucking are two completely natural habits that kids develop to help them feel comforted and safe. However, once they get to a certain age, it can start to impact the way their mouth forms, causing a variety of issues that they’ll need to deal with as they get older. Read on to learn about how you can discourage older children to stop thumb-sucking, and what issues can result as they age if they continue this habit.

Problems That Can Arise from Thumb-Sucking

The good news is, if your child is sucking their thumb or on a pacifier, there’s no need to worry. It isn’t until they begin growing that it can become an issue. According to the American Dental Association, children typically naturally stop using pacifiers and sucking their thumbs between the ages of two and four years old. Sometimes, stress, anxiety, and separation can increase how often children do this as well.

If your child continues thumb-sucking once their teeth are almost completely grown in, oral problems may arise, including:

  • Bite misalignment, like underbite, overbite, or crossbite.
  • Palate issues that affect their breathing.
  • Speech problems, including lisps.
  • Gapped teeth and overjet.

When Should Children Stop Sucking Their Thumbs?

Every child grows and develops at their own rate, which is why there’s no set age to stop your child from sucking their thumb or on pacifiers. It’s important to gently and supportively discourage the behavior around the ages of four and five, because this is a crucial developmental time for their mouth. The constant pressure and force from sucking can increase their risk of needing serious orthodontic intervention as teens, which is why it’s a good idea to start visits with their pediatric dentist as soon as possible. Their dentist can provide you with suggestions to discourage thumb-sucking along with a thorough examination of their mouth to make sure that their habit isn’t having a drastic impact on their dental alignment.

How Can You Discourage Thumb-Sucking?

There are several different ways to help wean your child from sucking on their pacifier or thumbs. Here are a few positive and effective suggestions:

  • Replace their comforting coping habit for another healthy habit, like cuddling with a stuffed animal or getting wrapped up in their blanket.
  • Create a sticker-chart where they earn a sticker for each day that they don’t suck on their thumb or pacifier.
  • Stay positive and try not to get frustrated if they continue to suck their thumb.
  • Help your child manage any stress or anxiety they feel.

If you need help trying to get your child to break this habit and they’re between the ages four and six, don’t hesitate to reach out to their pediatric dentist. With the proper techniques, you can rest-assured knowing that your child’s oral development will stay on the right track.

About the Author

Dr. Thomas Youngblood has been helping children build healthy oral habits for nearly two decades. He is an active and proud member of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and offers a variety of services to help keep little one’s smiles healthy, including breaking thumb-sucking habits. For questions or to schedule an appointment, visit Midland Kid’s Dentist’s website or call 432-520-5437.

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