Thumb sucking is a common habit of babies and toddlers. When they’re young, its cute, innocent, and maybe even a little quirky; but the sooner you can nip this habit in the bud, the better.

Thumb sucking can have long lasting negative impacts on the teeth and mouth.

It can also cause skin problems, social issues, and speech impediments. If your child sucks their thumb, the first step in prevention is knowing all the facts. Here is a quick guide to everything you need to know about thumb sucking, to better your child’s future.

How thumb sucking affects the teeth

There’s thumb sucking, finger sucking, and even pacifier use, all of which can negatively impact the growth and alignment of the teeth. The more aggressively your child practices these behaviors, the more harmful the consequences may be.

For example, some thumb suckers simply rest their thumbs in their mouths, while others vigorously suck the thumb. Those that suck the thumb are especially susceptible changes in the alignment of the teeth and thus the shape of the jaw. This can cause speech issues down the road and pain or sensitivity to the roof of the mouth.

In several cases, thumb sucking is just a phase, but if your child continues to suck their thumb past the age of 4, you should especially consult a pediatrician or dentist.

How thumb sucking affects the mouth

The teeth and the mouth are closely related when it comes to thumb sucking. Bite issues are the biggest issue when it comes to thumb sucking. Most commonly, protruding teeth from sucking the thumb can create an overbite, in which the top jaw overextends from the bottom jaw, thus creating an uneven bite.

Other bite issues may include the opposite, where the bottom teeth tip backwards and the jaws don’t meet. Also, an open bite may form where the top and bottom teeth do not meet at all when the mouth is closed.

Ways to encourage your child to stop

Preventing your child from sucking their thumb might be hard but living with these permanent consequences is harder. As a parent, it is best to help your child prevent thumb sucking as soon as possible. These are the five most helpful tips for your child’s thumb sucking habit.

Stay calm, don’t yell. It is best not to become frustrated or yell at your child for sucking their thumb. Regardless of how worried you are about the consequences, be nurturing and maintain an even tone for the most likely amount of cooperation.

Create a diversion. Like most habits, thumb sucking is just something to do. Often your child just needs something else to do. When you notice your child thumb sucking, offer an alternative to do with their hands, fidget with, etc. instead of thumb sucking.

Offer a lot of praise. Remember potty training? Good things come from a lot of praise. Create a chart, offer rewards, your child will respond well to positive reinforcement and encouragement.

Apply a bad taste. On the other hand, you can also make thumb sucking less enjoyable. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Applying a bad taste to the thumb such as a dash of hot sauce, sour juice, or something bitter, can significantly decrease your child’s habit.

Be patient. Last, but not least, be patient. Your child’s thumb sucking habit most likely developed over a long period of time, so don’t expect a miracle overnight.

Early dental care is oral health practices is very important and can ensure that your child will have a healthy mouth and smile for life. Our skilled and “kid-focused” approach at our Walled Lake Dental Office is committed to educating parents and children in good oral health practices and being proactive about children’s dental health.

Dr. Hechtman has been making smiles bright for over 40 years! Our Walled Lake Dental Practice is a full-service dental clinic that meets the needs of the entire family. Offering the latest technology and service in dental treatments and cosmetic dentistry, Dr. Hechtman has the answer to all your dental health concerns. Call today for a Free Dental Consult!