Will Thumbsucking Harm Your Child’s Teeth?

There has been a great deal of debate between parents regarding thumbsucking. Thumbsucking is a natural reflex that children use to soothe themselves, but it could have long-term consequences for their dental health. If your child sucks his or her thumb or other fingers, here is what you need to know.  

How Does Thumbsucking Hurt Dental Health?

Infants who suck their thumbs might not have any long-term problems if they stop before their teeth start to erupt. However, a child that continues beyond the eruption of the first teeth could experience serious dental problems.  

Thumbsucking can lead to problems with the jaw, including misalignment or the development of an overbite. Your child could even have trouble with language development or develop a malformation of the roof of his or her mouth.  

If your child continues to suck his or her thumb as the permanent teeth erupt, the teeth could be pushed out of alignment. As a result, your child could need braces to correct the problem. Thumbsucking can also increase the likelihood that your child develops a gum infection, which could mean more cavities, teeth decay, and the need to extract teeth. 

What Can You Do?

If your child's teeth are starting to erupt, now is the time to try to stop him or her from thumbsucking. One of the most important things for you to remember during this time is that scolding your child is not helpful. Focus on praising your child for improvements in not thumbsucking instead.  

Thumbsucking is often a soothing mechanism that your child reverts to when he or she is feeling anxious. Look for ways to help him or her channel those emotions into healthier activities, such as talking about his or her feelings or seeking comfort from a parent.  

You could even try placing a bandage on your child's thumb to remind him or her that thumbsucking is a no-no. 

If your child's thumbsucking primarily happens at night while he or she sleeps, talk to your child about possibly getting a mouth guard fitted to prevent it. The mouthguard is usually an option when there is a fear that the permanent teeth could be harmed if the thumbsucking continues.  

You and your dentist can continue to monitor the health of your child's teeth and gums. Regular checkups with the dentist can help identify the point at which more serious options for treatment need to be considered. For more information, visit a website such as http://www.silveradofamilydental.com.