Thumb Sucking and Your Child’s Teeth

September 5, 2017by Daniel Skillman

Thumbsucking is a natural reflex for children when they are nervous, fidgeting or just trying to relax. This natural reflex is usually learned at an early stage when they are still babies, usually helping them fall asleep.

While this action effectively soothes and calms their nerves, it has negative effects on your children’s teeth. To preserve your kids’ beautiful smile, here are some great tips to help your kids break the bad habit.

Is thumbsucking bad for my child’s teeth?

When the baby teeth have been replaced by permanent ones, thumbsucking can ruin the alignment of your child’s smile. The effects will depend on how aggressive your child sucks their thumb. The more often and the more vigorous your child’s thumbsucking habit is, the worse it can affect their teeth. Aside from misaligned teeth, the roof of the mouth can also be deformed.

When do children stop sucking their thumbs?

In most cases, the habit naturally goes away before they turn five years old. If this is the case, there is nothing to worry about. However, there are some children who have become greatly dependent on this habit that they find it hard to stop even when they get bigger. If you think your kid has grown too attached to thumbsucking, you might need to step in to take over.

How can I help my child stop thumbsucking?

If they reach the age when permanent teeth are out and they still won’t stop thumbsucking, here’s what you can do:

1. Don’t punish them unjustly as it may just add to the stress.

Remember, you child is most likely hanging on to this habit because of some external stressors. Instead of disciplining in a hostile way, do it in a gentle and loving manner.

2. Help them find alternative ways to calm down.

They are probably still thumbsucking because they have not yet figured out a substitute activity to soothe them. Encourage other activities that will help distract them from thumbsucking, such as interactive play or art activities that keep their hands busy.

3. Help them express feelings using words.

Another reason why children thumbsuck is because they are having a hard time using their words to deal with their frustrations. If you notice that this is the case, encourage them to become more expressive through words. Having a talk and asking probing questions will aid you in understanding what might be going through their minds and the things that could be stressing them out.

4. Educate them about proper dental hygiene.

If your child understands why you are reprimanding them from thumbsucking, it will be easier for them to curb the habit. They will not think that you are just mad at them for no reason. Explain the importance of good dental practices and why sucking one’s thumb can be detrimental to their oral health. Make it a light and fun explanation so they will not be overwhelmed and intimidated by these new details. Incorporate play or visual aids if you can to make the experience more enjoyable.

Saddleback Dental in Mission Viejo, CA provides personalized care, quality dentists you deserve. Services include cosmetic dentistry, implants, extractions, family pediatrics, and root canals.

Call Us Today!
Saddleback Dental Associates
Office Hours