child sucking thumbFrom the early months of a child’s life, even within the womb, it is very common for infants to form a habit of sucking their thumb or finger. If prolonged Thumb Sucking Effects on Teeth Development can be serious.

Thumb Sucking  Provides a Sense of Comfort

In the earliest years of their life, it is a natural occurrence for a child to form a habit of thumb-sucking, it affords them a sense of comfort, relaxation, and security.  While it causes no problems at a very young age, prolonged thumb-sucking effects eventually put children at risk of dental developmental problems.

When to Stop Thumb Sucking

From ages 0 3, children either have no teeth or only baby teeth. Once baby teeth begin to fall out and permanent teeth begin to grow in (around ages 4, 5 and 6), children should desist with their habit of thumb-sucking because it can cause long-term dental and speech development problems.  While sucking a thumb or finger, the placement of that finger lands behind the top front teeth and begins pushing forward.  Intense and regular sucking will begin to reshape the teeth as well as the jawbone because of its malleable nature.

Common dental developmental issues caused by prolonged thumb-sucking include:

– Reshaped and narrowed jawbone

– As permanent teeth grow in, they are misaligned

– Narrowed dental arches

– Protruding of top, front teeth (this also makes your child more susceptible to injuries)

– Open bites (upper and lower jaw do not touch when the mouth is closed)

– Speech problems and difficulties

Treatment options if issues occur:

– Extensive orthodontic treatment

– Cease thumb-sucking (if stopped early enough, it is likely that the effects will correct themselves)

– Speech therapy

Remember that it is natural for infants to suck their thumb; it is even healthy!  Suckling is a natural reflex for infants and it is good for babies to feel the need to suck.  Just like a pacifier, thumb-sucking helps calm your baby down so, if your infant is prone to sucking their thumb, don’t try to break their habit just yet.

As your child starts to leave their infantile and toddler years, it’s likely time to pay attention to the intensity and frequency of their thumb-sucking.  If you start to notice that it is becoming a vigorous habit, you should then consider taking the necessary steps to help your child stop sucking their thumb. As permanent teeth begin to grow in, the longer thumb-sucking occurs, the more likely it is for a child to need future orthodontic treatment.  The sooner your child ceases to suck their thumb, the effects on teeth development should lessen. Any problems that have already occurred from thumb-sucking are likely to be naturally reversed as well.

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