The Effects of Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking can be of concern for many parents/guardians, and while seeking advice from a pediatric dentist is recommended, there are several methods to help break this habit at home.  Though thumb sucking is not harmful to a baby, it can be for toddlers. If this habit lasts past 3 years of age, it can slowly change the alignment of the teeth and impair their bite. Instead of the upper teeth fitting snugly around the lower teeth, thumb sucking, pacifiers, and fingers in the mouth can cause the upper teeth to start angling forward. This can misalign your child’s bite and create many more dental treatments later on in life.

You can try any of the following techniques for helping your child if they are struggling to break the thumb-sucking habit.

  • Encouragement – Establish a reward system with your child when they can refrain from sucking on their thumb for a certain period of time. This is a great way to help them to consciously start breaking their habit.
  • Substitution – If sucking their thumb is a comfort when falling asleep or tired, try using a stuffed animal or other object to let them hold onto to replace their habit.
  • Creativity – Use your imagination to create a fun reason for them to give up their pacifier or stop sucking their thumb. Tapping into their big imaginations could help make breaking their habit seem exciting, rather than a dread. Positive reinforcement is best when eliminating a bad habit.

A pediatric dentist may recommend alternatives that will prevent a continuous habit. However, a good general rule is to start breaking your child of the habit as early as they will allow. The older they get, the harder it becomes to let go.

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