The first question you may ask is whether thumb sucking is part of normal behaviour. Quite simply the answer to this question is yes. Most babies and very young children do suck their thumbs. Between the ages of 3 to 6 years, most children have kicked the habit. The next question you may ask is does thumb sucking affect a child’s teeth?

The answer is yes. Children who are still sucking their thumbs frequently when they are 5 years old can risk health or dental problems taking place.

How Does Thumb Sucking Affect A Child’s Teeth?

Long term thumb-sucking could cause the teeth to become misaligned or even cause the teeth to push outwards. This process normally comes to an end after thumb-sucking stops. But if the habit persists, orthodontic treatment may be required.

As well as teeth misalignment speech problems can develop also including lacking the ability to say Ds and Ts, lisping, and pushing the tongue out when speaking.

When treatment should begin for thumb-sucking?

Most experts believe that thumb-sucking can be ignored if a child isn’t yet going to school.

Children might need treatment if they:

  • are still sucking their thumb a lot at 4 years old or more;
  • appear to be developing dental or speech problems due to thumb sucking;
  • are being teased because of their thumb sucking habit.

How to treat thumb-sucking

Most kids will stop if helped a bit at home. It often happens at age 4 or 5 years because the child feels insecure, so the best remedy is to offer praise when the child doesn’t have his or her thumb in their mouth. Also if you know why the child might be feeling insecure, adopt measures to halt this feeling of insecurity.

It might be necessary to arrange an appointment with your child’s  dentist, as once permanent teeth are in place, sucking the thumb may bring about problems when it comes to the correct growth of the mouth and the teeth’s alignment. It may also bring about changes in the mouth’s roof.

Exactly how much sucking is taking place determines if a dental problem is likely to emerge. If a child simply rests their thumbs quietly in their mouths less problems are likely to occur than when the thumb acts more aggressively. Some aggressive and chronic thumb suckers could develop problems with the baby teeth.

What your child’s dentist can do

Your dentist should be able to offer to your child some encouragement and reason to give up the thumb sucking habit by explaining what may happen to the teeth if the sucking doesn’t stop.

The dentist, if nothing else works, might decide to prescribe a medication with a bitter taste that you can coat onto your child’s thumb or pacifier to discourage the continuation of the habit.

The main reasons to get your child free of the thumb sucking habit is to stop any teasing from others, ensure the teeth don’t get misaligned and avoid the necessity of orthodontic treatment later in life. Your dentist is used to these sorts of problems and will help to solve your child’s thumb sucking once he or she has paid a visit.