Thumb Sucking and Your Child's Teeth

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Thumb Sucking & Your Child's Teeth

Pediatric Dentistry in Katy, TX

At Katy Kids Dentistry, our mission is to help each of our patients develop a beautiful, healthy smile over the long-term. Our doctors and highly trained pediatric dental specialists work hard to treat every patient on an individual level, designing personalized, holistic treatment plans that place a focus on encouraging healthy development to set the foundation for a lifetime of healthy smiles. Setting that foundation starts early, and while it may surprise you, the seemingly-innocent habit of thumb sucking can put your child's teeth in jeopardy.

 

Why Thumb Sucking is a Problem

Few images are more sweet and comforting than that of a sleeping baby sucking its thumb. Sucking on a finger or thumb is a perfectly normal habit that many babies develop, sometimes even while they're still in the womb. For an infant, thumb sucking is harmless – but if the habit persists past age 3, it can cause problems.

 

Normally, the front teeth develop in vertical alignment and the upper teeth sit snugly over the lower teeth. But, with persistent thumb sucking, it's possible for the pressure of a thumb, finger, or pacifier to gradually push the front teeth up and out. This can cause an "open bite" to develop, which is where the upper front teeth are angled forward and don't meet the bottom front teeth. An open bite can impair speech, eating, and proper bite function, and it requires orthodontic treatment to correct.

 

Gently Stopping Thumb Sucking

Most children break the thumb sucking habit on their own sometime between age 2 and 4. If your child continues to suck their thumb past that age, though, it may be time to intervene. Here are a few strategies you can try for gently dissuading your child from sucking their thumb or finger:

 
  • Praise & Reward: Positive reinforcement is extremely effective with children, and you can use this tactic to break the thumb sucking habits. First, explain to your child why it's important to avoid thumb sucking, and take time to answer their questions on the topic. Think of a way to reward your child for avoiding sucking their thumb – stickers, toys, and fun activities work great for this.

  • Comfort & Distract: Sometimes, children suck their thumb for other, underlying reasons. Do you notice your child start sucking their thumb when their nervous, anxious, stressed, or bored? If you notice a link between those behaviors, try giving your child some extra love and attention when they're feeling that way – it might be enough to help them forget about their thumb.

  • Try Some Creativity: When it comes to helping your child get past thumb sucking, creativity can help. If they're afraid of letting go of a pacifier, for example, it might work to tie it to a helium balloon and send it to the "Tooth Fairy" – and you can give your child a fun present once the Tooth Fairy receives it. A little imagination goes a long way!

  • Get Our Help: If your child is still sucking their thumb, finger, or pacifier, we can help. We've worked with plenty of children on this same issue, and we'd be happy to talk to your child to help them understand it and give them ways to break the habit. We can also use a special appliance called a tongue crib that completely prevents thumb sucking. Appliance therapy usually breaks the habit within a few months.

 

Contact Your Katy, TX Pediatric Dentist

If your child is sucking their thumb and you have more questions, or if you'd just like to schedule a routine checkup or cleaning for your child, we're always here to help. We've helped countless kids throughout the Katy area grow into a beautiful smile, and we strive to make every visit a fun, enjoyable experience. Feel free to call us at 281-712-8002 or reach out to us at our contact page with any questions, or if you'd like to make an appointment, you can request one using our easy online form. We can't wait to hear from you, and we wish you luck in helping your child break the thumb sucking habit!