study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that children who bit their nails or sucked their thumbs were less likely to have allergies to pollen and other common allergens. By the age of 13, they were 33% less likely to have these allergies and 39% less likely by age 32. 

Now, this doesn’t mean that thumb sucking is all good and doesn’t have any negative consequences at all. If you spoke to a pediatric dentist like Kids Stop Dental, they would have a lot to say about the effects of thumb sucking on proper oral development. Read on to find out more about this.

Thumb Sucking Age Range

Thumb sucking is an instinctive habit that develops in babies and it’s necessary for nursing. It’s also a soothing habit that helps babies feel content and comfortable. It is a habit they use (sucking either their thumb or pacifier) when stressed or bored. 

All of this is to say that thumb sucking is a completely normal habit that many babies develop. You don’t need to do anything to stop them from sucking their thumbs, especially if they are still quite young. It will help them make contact with and explore their environment as well.

Before the age of 3, you can ignore thumb sucking. But after age 3, you will need to take some measures to help your child get over this habit. 

Is Thumb Sucking Bad?

The problem is that thumb sucking can result in an adverse effect on a baby’s bite. In a normal bite, the upper teeth will overlap the lower ones. Check it for yourself – close your mouth and bring your teeth together to see how your teeth sit naturally. 

But if a baby sucks their thumb, it can result in improper jaw development and interfere with normal tooth eruption. This could result in an abnormal bite, where there is a gap between the upper and lower teeth when the mouth is closed. The teeth will not overlap in such a case. 

Also, it can block the front teeth from erupting fully and also push the teeth forward. Remember that the severity of these side effects will vary depending on how many hours a day a child kept sucked on their thumb. The longer the thumb sucking happens, the more forcefully the jaw development and teeth eruption will be affected.

Your child could also be applying minor pressure when sucking their teeth or a lot more pressure, depending on how much soothing they need. This again affects the severity of the effects. 

How Does Thumb Sucking Affect Proper Teeth Development?

There are many other negative effects of thumb sucking beyond a certain age. Some of these are:

  • A narrowing of the palate (the roof of the mouth)
  • Affecting normal teeth eruption 
  • Swallowing and breathing actions changed
  • Speech development problems
  • Teeth alignment issues

As you can see, these are NOT minor issues. This could result in your child wearing braces or using other alignment devices to repair their smile when they are older. Not only is this quite expensive, but it can also be painful and detrimental to their self-worth and self-esteem.

But all hope is not lost if your child sucks their thumb. It’s highly preventable if you take a few steps now. Let’s see what those would be.

Is There a Thumb Sucking Prevention Device?

There is a thumb sucking prevention device called a tongue crib that helps prevent your child from putting their thumb into their mouth and can help break the habit in a few months. Speak to your pediatric dentist about it.

But you should only use that as a last resort. You can try and soothe your child in other ways, so they don’t need their thumb sucking habit any longer.

Figure out when your child uses the thumb sucking habit, the baby’s triggers, so to speak. Find some other activity to soothe and busy those little hands when they get stressed or bored. You could even start giving them extra hugs and cuddle time every day, so they feel soothed by your warmth and presence, rather than needing thumb sucking comfort. 

Do not berate your child or punish them for thumb sucking, but use praise and reward to get them over this habit. Explain to them why this habit is bad for their teeth and reward them when you notice that they don’t put their thumb in their mouth.

When you notice that their thumb is in their mouth, give them a gentle reminder instead of scolding them. The child might be putting their thumb into their mouth without realizing it. So help them build self-awareness by pointing out when they do it, by saying something like, “Did you notice you are sucking your thumb now?”

Also, it’s important to remember that many children suck their thumb while they are sleeping, so try to soothe them in other ways while they sleep, like playing music.

Let Pediatric Dentistry Help You Build Children’s Oral Health

You don’t have to do it all on your own. If you are frustrated with your child because they won’t stop thumb sucking no matter what measure you use, then contact your pediatric dentist for help. They deal with children’s oral health issues all day long and will have a lot of creative ideas to share with you.

Contact Kids Stop Dental today and make an appointment with them for your children if you are in or around the Dallas Fort Worth area.   

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