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“Does Thumb-Sucking Harm My Child’s Teeth?” Your Questions Answered!

Dentist in Palatine

Many parents worry about their children’s thumb-sucking habit, particularly if their child is getting older. But is this concern warranted? How can you get them to quit the habit? Read on to find answers to parents’ most pressing questions about thumb-sucking.

1. Is thumb-sucking harmful to my child’s teeth?

Unfortunately, thumb-sucking (as well as using a pacifier) after permanent teeth have erupted can be damaging to your child’s teeth. That said, the intensity of the sucking does determine how much of an impact this habit will have on their oral health. For example, if they just hold their thumb in their mouth lightly, it will not have as severe of an effect as if they were sucking their thumb aggressively. Children who suck on their thumbs more forcefully may have issues with teeth misalignment. In particular, their teeth may tilt forward, causing an open bite (where the front teeth do not come together) or a crossbite (where the molars underbite but the front teeth overbite). They may also experience a more severe overbite.

2. What are some other consequences of thumb-sucking?

You may be surprised to learn that thumb-sucking does not only impact your child’s teeth, but can also have a number of other effects on your child’s overall health. Some longterm consequences your child could experience as a result of thumb-sucking include a shrinking airway, difficulties with speech, issues with swallowing, and even changing of the tongue’s resting place (which could result in sleep disorders down the road).

3. When should I expect my child to stop sucking their thumb?

You can typically expect your child to quit thumb-sucking anywhere between the ages of two and four years old. Thumb-sucking before this age range is not necessarily a negative thing, as it can help your child to develop stronger jaw muscles. However, it is particularly important that this habit does not impact your child’s primary teeth. If you notice any changes in this set of teeth, be certain to contact your dentist.

4. Is there a way to help my child stop thumb-sucking?

If you would like to encourage your child to break the habit of sucking on their thumb, there are a few things you can try. For starters, be sure to praise your child when they are not sucking their thumbs. Be certain to also provide comfort to your child when they are sucking on their thumbs, as this is often a sign of insecurity. For older children, you can allow them to get involved in deciding the method in which they’re going to move past the habit. Also, for further encouragement, you can enlist the help of your dentist to explain how thumb-sucking might affect their teeth in the long run.

The dentists at Meadows Dental Care can help your child to have a healthy, beautiful smile well into their adulthood. To schedule an appointment for your child, call our Palatine dental office today!

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