While thumb sucking is a common habit for children under four, if it continues much after that age, it can cause permanent damage to teeth. Our Sugar Land pediatric dentist offers tips for helping your child break the habit without causing damage to teeth.
What Problems Does Thumb Sucking Cause?
Sucking is a natural reflex that begins in the womb, but if not stopped before the child enters school can cause a multitude of problems when your child begins to get his or her adult teeth. While your child may suck his or her thumb as a way to calm themselves when they are upset, bored or tired, getting them to find other outlets to heal these emotions is critical for the care of their teeth. Extended periods of thumb sucking can lead to:
- Buck Teeth: When the permanent teeth begin to appear, thumb sucking can push those teeth out of their regular position, alter the shape of the face and lead to an open bite, not to mention the need for orthodontic treatment.
- Lisping: Teeth pushed from their proper position can affect the way your child holds his or her tongue and pronounces words. Speech therapists often ask about thumb sucking habits at the beginning of their treatments.
- Palate Growth Problems: Not only will thumb sucking affect tooth position but can also influence the growth of your child’s palate and lead to problems chewing and swallowing.
How Do I Break the Thumb Sucking Cycle?
Before dental problems begin to happen, it is important to encourage your child with gentle reminders that they should not suck their thumb. Children often get in such a habit that they don’t even realize when they are doing it, and may simply need a reminder or a visual cue, so they are not embarrassed in front of others. Other children use their thumb sucking as a means to gain attention from the adults in their lives. If this is the case with your child, try ignoring it and see if the problem persists.
Learning what triggers the habit for your child can help you find other things to soothe them. Do they suck when they are tired or anxious? Find a favorite blanket or stuffed animal to squeeze instead. Develop a reward system for the days they don’t suck their thumb and praise them for choosing to stop.
If your child continues to suck, seek advice from your Sugar Land pediatric dentist. The best pediatric dentist has extensive training for children’s dental issues including how to help a thumb sucker drop the habit.
Posted on behalf of Sweetpea Smiles