How thumb sucking affects children’s teeth

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thumb sucking

Research and dentists say that one of the biggest problems affecting the oral health of children, including tooth decay, tongue thrusting, lip sucking, and early tooth loss is thumb sucking.

Studies suggest that although many children suck their thumbs, fingers, pacifiers, or toys, the thumb sucking should be stopped beyond the age of 5, when the permanent teeth begin to come in, otherwise dental problems can occur.

Depending on the frequency, intensity, and duration of the sucking, the teeth can be pushed out of alignment, causing them to protrude and create an overbite. Your child may also have difficulty with the correct pronunciation of words and develop speech problems such as lisping and thrusting the tongue when talking. In addition, the upper and lower jaws can become misaligned and the roof of the mouth might become malformed.

How can I stop my child sucking their thumb?

Unfortunately, there is no real one-word answer to stop your child from sucking their thumbs. It is something that children should grow out of and for those who don’t here are some tips that parents can try.

Try rewarding your child by offering them praise and rewards for the days when they don’t suck their thumbs. Put up an award chart so your child can look at the progress they make.

Keeping a sticker chart or a “thumbprint calendar” (by dipping your child’s thumb in food dye and letting them mark each thumb-free day) might prove to be a good incentive to help them ditch the habit.

When your child sucks his or her thumb find an activity such as a jigsaw, read them a story or give them a distraction such as their favourite soft toy or their comfort blanket. As tempting as it may be, never tell a child to stop sucking their thumb or put a glove or something on their thumb as they will only pull it off. The bigger deal you make of it, the more they may be driven to rely on it.

If all else fails, speak to your dentist, who can offer you help and advice on the best way to help your child curb that thumb-sucking habit. Make sure your child has regular dental check-ups every six months to a year, and try out some of the above tips to prevent this becoming a dental nightmare once your child is older.