Thumbsucking might be a habit your baby or toddler will someday outgrow, but it’s best to intervene early to avoid more serious dental issues later on. Thumbsucking is a natural, self-soothing reflex for children, but the habit can impact the growth of your child’s teeth and jaw.
9 Ways Thumbsucking Can Affect My Child’s Development and Appearance?
1. Misaligned permanent teeth. Children usually stop thumbsucking around the years of 2 to 4, just in time for their adult teeth to sprout. While the habit is not as much of a concern for baby teeth, thumbsucking can cause adult teeth to grow crooked or crowded. Teeth can be pulled forward, or there can be crowding in the bottom row of teeth. It is important to pay attention during the years of 4-8 when your child’s permanent teeth are expected to come in.
2. Thumbsucking can also affect the roof of your child’s mouth. The regular pressure of your child’s thumb on the roof of their mouth can change how it is shaped so that it is narrower and further up.
3. Development of a lisp or speech impediment.
4. A gap in the upper and lower teeth where they should meet in a bite, or the inability to bite front teeth together.
5. Overbite, which is when upper front teeth extend upward and out. In some people, an overbite can make one’s chin look undeveloped and cause protruding lips.
6. Thumbsucking can cause your child’s upper jaw to extend further from their face than it should.
7. Lower front teeth that tilt inwards instead of being straight.
8. Underbite, which is when the lower teeth extend further than the upper teeth. In some cases of underbite, the chin is extended forward, causing it to look disproportionately large compared to the rest of the face.
9. Gum disease. Because of bacteria and dirt found on the thumbs, your child may be vulnerable to gum infections due to thumbsucking.
How Do Misaligned Teeth Or Bite Issues Affect My Child’s Well-Being?
While some people feel that crooked teeth or bite issues are a purely aesthetic concern, the truth is that they are a functional concern as well. Misaligned teeth and improper bite can affect your child’s ability to bite and chew their food, as well as their ability to speak. The severity of these potential issues can be reduced with early intervention. Excessive gapping in teeth or the overcrowding of teeth can be more difficult to take care of with regular brushing and flossing, and thus create more risk for tooth decay and gum disease. Common solutions for misaligned teeth and improper bite include clear plastic aligners or traditional metal braces. More serious cases may require surgery.
How Can I Stop My Child From Thumbsucking?
1. Children often suck on their thumbs when they feel insecure or they need comfort. It can be beneficial to address your child’s anxieties and provide them with comfort.
2. Thumbsucking can be a defense mechanism, so build up your child’s confidence and self-esteem.
3. Praise your child if you notice that they are not sucking their thumb to reinforce this good behavior.
4. Some parents choose to intervene by wrapping their child’s hand in a sock, bandaging the thumb, or putting a bitter medicine on the thumb so that their child is discouraged from the habit in their sleep.
If you feel as though your child could benefit from a dentist’s explanation of how thumbsucking can affect them, let your dental provider know. For those in Suffolk, VA area seeking a family dentist, consider All Kids Dental. All Kids Dental of Suffolk has a kid-friendly waiting room and a staff that specializes in pediatric dentistry. Call 757-922-8110 to book your first appointment today.