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Is Thumb Sucking Bad For Oral Health?

February 28, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — esparzafamily @ 7:00 pm
child sucking their thumb

Part of growing up is leaving behind the things we used to love, but aren’t appropriate anymore. When it comes to children and thumb sucking, however, that can be easier said than done. Lots of kids are really attached to thumb-sucking, and you can’t exactly take their thumb away from them.

That can be a problem because sucking behavior past a certain age can cause oral health problems. If you want to know why, and what you can do to help your child stop thumb-sucking, here’s a guide that might help you.

What’s Wrong with Thumb-Sucking?

When your child is young, thumb-sucking and pacifier use aren’t a problem—if anything, it’s to be expected. However, once your child’s jaw starts developing and teeth start to come in, excessive thumb-sucking could potentially cause long-term alignment problems for your child’s teeth.

In particular, thumb sucking can lead to a condition known as open bite, where their teeth don’t quite touch when their mouth is closed. If you look at a picture of the condition, it almost looks like there’s a thumb-shaped hole in the teeth!

When Should My Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb?

Of course, the stop doesn’t have to come all at once—even cutting back past a certain age can be useful. Some dentists may recommend your child start weaning off of their thumb at the age of two, but others believe that this is a little early. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the age of 4 is probably the best time to start cutting back on thumb-sucking.

How Do I Help My Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb?

Getting your child to stop sucking their thumb can be a bit of a challenge. As with many things in parenting, positive reinforcement is key. Praise your child for going a night without sucking their thumb, and remind them what a big kid they’re becoming. You can even make a sticker chart, where they can add a sticker whenever they succeed, and get a reward when they have enough stickers.

It might also be useful to replace one soothing method with another, like switching out thumb-sucking for a teddy bear. Ultimately, you know your child better than anyone else, so you’ll have the best idea of what could motivate them.

About the Author

At Esparza Family Dentistry, we set ourselves apart from other practices with our dedication. Dedication not just to our craft, but to the patients who support us. We work one-on-one with our patients to create treatment plans tailored specifically to them, ensuring that everyone who visits our office is receiving the highest quality of care.

If you have any questions about how to help your children overcome their thumb-sucking habit, we can be reached at our website or by phone at (757) 499-4707.

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