Thumb-Sucking is Harmless. Right?

Thumb-sucking is an ordinary habit for children. It is a reflex that calms them and makes them feel more secure, and it could even aid their sleep. That being said, if it continues for more than a few years, thumb-sucking can cause several dental problems.

As permanent teeth are replacing the baby teeth, thumb-sucking can obstruct the overall growth of the mouth, including the alignment of the teeth. It could also cause unnatural changes to the roof of the mouth.

Most children stop sucking their thumbs at the point adult teeth are ready to come in—somewhere between ages 2 and 4. The children who continue to suck their thumbs past this stage are at a greater risk for damage.

Another influence that determines whether damage will occur or not is the vigor of the child’s sucking. Children who suck their thumbs with ferocity will have more dental issues than children who only rest their thumb in their mouth. In fact, children who suck their thumbs aggressively have been known to develop problems ahead of the emergence of their adult teeth.

Here are some tips to help get your kids to stop sucking their thumbs:

  • Address the cause of any anxiety which might make them want to suck their thumb in the first place.
  • Praise your child for not sucking their thumb.
  • Ask Dr. Levine to explain the risks and offer advice.

If you notice your child is still sucking his or her thumb beyond the arrival of their permanent teeth, and you are unable to correct the issue yourself, it’s a wise idea to schedule an appointment with Dr. Levine—before complications arise.

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