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Is Thumb Sucking Bad For My Child’s Teeth?

Does your child like to suck their thumb? Have you ever wondered if thumb sucking may affect your child’s teeth? As you search the internet you may find conflicting information. Our dentist’s article below will help you better understand the different sides of this debate.

thumb sucking bad for teeth

Can Thumb Sucking Damage Baby Teeth?

Gentle thumb sucking does not damage a baby or child’s teeth. However, the stronger or more vigorous the sucking, the more chance of there being damage.

Thumb sucking can cause misalignment in the baby teeth. It can even affect the shape of the jaw and the roof of the mouth. Both of these can cause problems later in life.

Can Thumb Sucking Damage Adult Teeth?

If thumb sucking stops before adult teeth come in, they will not be damaged. However, if your child’s thumb sucking has damaged the jaw or roof of the mouth than it can affect the adult teeth that will come back in.

Long-Term Effects

Some of the long-term effects of thumb sucking can include:

  • An overbite
  • An underbite
  • The position of the adult teeth as they come in
  • Changes to the shape of the jaw
  • A sensitive roof of the mouth
  • Tongue may be out of position
  • A lisp
  • Gaps between front teeth

What Can I Do to Protect My Child’s Teeth?

The first step to protecting your child’s teeth is to decide if you need to be worried. If your child is under the age of 4, then keep an eye on their teeth, but don’t worry. If your child is older than 6 years old, check with your child’s dentist.

There are certain dental surgeries or treatments that can be used to correct any damage to the mouth. However, before you fix the dental problems, you need to get your child to stop sucking their thumb. Otherwise, your child could re-damage their mouth.

How to Stop Your Child’s Thumb Sucking

The first step to stopping your child’s thumb sucking is to notice what triggers the action of sucking their thumb. Oftentimes, thumb sucking is caused by stress or anxiety. If you can treat the causes, the action should stop.

You can use positive reinforcement to move your child away from sucking their thumb. You may also want to try a substitution. Introduce something they can do instead of sucking their thumb.

If gentle reinforcement and redirection is not working, there are mouth devices that your dentist can recommend to prevent thumb sucking.

Will a Pacifier Damage My Child’s Teeth?

Pacifiers are just as bad as thumb sucking. The pacifier is plastic and can damage the teeth even worse. Do not try to replace thumb sucking with a pacifier.

The same can be said for any object your child may suck on. The harder the object, and the harder the sucking motion, the more likely your child’s teeth may be damaged.

Ask Our Dentist If You Have Questions About Thumb Sucking During Your Next Visit

From positive reinforcement to gentle redirection, you want to stop your child from sucking their thumb before their baby teeth start coming out and their adult teeth start coming in. Don’t be afraid to talk to your dentist about your options and worries.

To schedule your next dental appointment, give our dentist’s office a call at (219) 322-9920.

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Creating Smiles, PC, located in St. John and Valparaiso, Indiana, offers everything you need for a healthy smile and a healthier life. Dr. Kapers and his team can take the anxiety and uncertainty out of dental visits with sedation dentistry, and we're the premier provider of dental implants in the region.