Thumbsucking is a very common childhood habit. In fact, it’s a natural reflex that comforts a child and can even start when they are in the womb.
In many cases, it doesn’t cause problems and children simply grow out of the habit in time.
But prolonged thumbsucking affects oral health and is something a parent may need help with.
We’re going to take a look at the dangers of thumbsucking in our latest article, and explain what you and your dentist can do to help.
The effect of thumbsucking on teeth
If your child continues to suck their thumb beyond the age of seven, then the habit could affect the position of their adult teeth, pushing them too far forwards or back.
In younger children who thumbsuck but stop earlier, the teeth may correct themselves.
But if a child sucks their thumb for a prolonged period of time, as well as having issues with teeth positioning, they may experience problems with their bite (the way their teeth fit together), palate or how they chew their food.
The list of potential issues goes on: thumbsucking may also mean that your child runs the risk of a speech impediment or painful ulcers in their mouth.
How can I help my child?
If you’re the parent of a child who sucks their thumb, this is what you can do to help them break the habit:
- Instead of reproaching them for sucking their thumb, praise them when they manage to abstain from the habit
- Put a plaster or finger guard on their thumb to remind them not to suck it
- Talk to your child to find out if they’re feeling particularly anxious about anything — thumbsucking often intensifies in times of stress
- Discuss potential problems that could arise from thumbsucking — this will help them understand why they shouldn’t do it and encourage them to set goals to break the habit
Should I see my child’s dentist about thumbsucking?
Regular checkups at the dentist are essential for any child, especially for one who is a thumbsucker.
Your dentist will be able to give your child a thorough check to see whether their habit has affected the position of their teeth or any other issues to do with their bite, palate or oral health — it’s important to track and treat these problems at an early age.
They can also offer advice on changing your child’s behaviour and even provide a mouth appliance that makes thumbsucking uncomfortable, encouraging your child to stop.
Think of it as teamwork to gently encourage your child into a range of good dental habits that will last a lifetime!
Here for all the family
Seeing a dentist experienced at taking care of children in a welcoming environment is essential if you have a thumbsucker.
Come and see us here at Opal Dental, your family-friendly dentist for anyone based in Te Atatu or the surrounding areas.
We offer a full range of children’s dentistry services and can offer help and advice on any aspect of your child’s dental routine and care.
Just give us a call to fix an appointment for you or your child and know that we’re here for all the family, at every stage of their dental health journey!