How Harmful Thumb Sucking is for Your Child’s Dental Health?

how harmful thumb sucking is for your child's dental health?

Thumb sucking is a natural reflex for infants. It pacifies them and makes them feel secure. But if it becomes a habit, it can create a lot of serious dental problems and can affect the child’s physical and emotional well-being.

Even though many children stop thumb-sucking when they are two to four years of age, some continue the habit well beyond their infancy. One recent study found that nearly 20 percent of children don’t stop thumb-sucking even after they reach five years of age.

At TruCare Dentistry, we believe that a healthy mouth is the right of every child and we know what it takes to break harmful habits and build healthy ones.

In this blog post, we describe the side effects of prolonged thumb sucking in children and the various ways to stop the habit most effectively.

Hazards of prolonged thumb sucking

When a child continues with the thumb-sucking habit after they are five years of age, then it’s a matter of concern. The prolonged habit can cause some serious dental problems. Here are some of the problems.

  1. Open bite: This is a dental malocclusion in which the front teeth are completely misaligned. It’s one of the most dangerous effects of thumb-sucking. One leading research, which studied various types of dental malocclusions found in children, found that 85 percent of the respondents with a habit of thumb sucking suffer from an open bite. If thumb sucking isn’t stopped at the right time, then it will exacerbate the condition and may cause other dental malocclusions, which will require extremely expensive and complicated orthodontic procedures to correct the condition.
  2. Overbite: Also known as buck teeth, this condition causes the top front teeth to protrude beyond the bottom front teeth. It is commonly found among children who suck their thumb well after their adolescence. The above-mentioned research found that seventy percent of the children with overbites had the habit of thumb-sucking. Apart from an overbite, constant thumb sucking can leave gaps between the teeth.
  3. Misshapen palate: If a child doesn’t stop the thumb-sucking habit after the permanent teeth start to form, then the thumb’s pressure causes malformation of the palate (the roof of the mouth). A misshapen palate often causes dental problems such as impacted and crowded teeth. With the constant pressure applied to the roof of the mouth, the habit can also cause extreme sensitivity in the palate and may also result in breathing and speech problems.
  4. Dental infections and intra-oral ulcers: Would it be surprising to know that frequent thumb sucking can cause severe dental infections? Certainly not! The habit leads to bacteria and germs enter into a child’s mouth, which can cause various types of dental infections. Also, aggressive thumb sucking can lead to the depletion of the mucosal layer in the mouth and cause oral wounds as well as intra-oral ulcers.
  5. Altered jaw shape and facial structure: Habitual thumb sucking lowers the tongue’s position and puts more pressure on the jaw, which alters the palate shape and causes considerable changes to the upper jaw. When the pressure is constant, the jaw changes its shape. Apart from that, the habit also causes abnormal changes and distortion to a child’s facial structure and results in massive speech impediments such as lisping.
Ways to stop thumb sucking

Prolonged thumb sucking can create many serious dental problems in children. But the good news is, there are various ways to break the habit for good. As per the British Orthodontic Society, the dental problems caused by constant thumb sucking can be reversed if the habit is stopped by the age of seven. Here are five ways to break the habit.

  1. Invest in high-quality thumb guards: Thumb guards are one of the best devices to stop the thumb-sucking habit. The Journal of Dentistry, Medicine and Medical Sciences and the American Dental Association has published various studies that prove the efficacy of thumb guards. When worn continuously over a period, thumb guards are extremely effective. Buy three thumb guards and make your child wear them day and night. After some months, the habit will stop for good.
  2. Make your child wear a face mask: A face mask is not only effective in breaking the thumb-sucking habit of your child, but will also keep pollutants, pollen, and airborne bacteria and viruses at bay. Buy some high-quality reusable masks for your child or encourage them to wear single-use ones for better breathability and comfort.
  3. Use positive reinforcements: To break the thumb-sucking habit in your child, use positive reinforcement instead of negative. Don’t rebuke, scold, or criticize your child. Instead, set achievable goals and give rewards and praises when your child avoids thumb-sucking.
  4. Identify triggers: Many children resort to thumb-sucking as a response to stress and anxiety. One recent study revealed that by stimulating some key receptors in the brain, thumb-sucking can release physical and mental tension. As a parent, identify the triggers that reinforce the habit and comfort your child at the right time by telling a story, giving a hug, or their favorite toy.
  5. Keep them engaged in productive activities and hobbies: When it comes to stopping the thumb-sucking habit, nothing can be more effective than a busy pair of hands and a strongly focused mind completely engrossed in some productive work or hobby. Activities such as writing, sketching, painting, dancing, playing a musical instrument, baking, and creating crafts not only help in breaking dangerous habits but also provide enormous outlets for self-expression and creativity.
In a nutshell,

Even though thumb sucking is extremely common among children and innocuous at the beginning, it can cause a lot of dental problems if the habit doesn’t break after a certain age, which is by the age of five. Some of the dental problems it can create are open bite, overbite, misformed palate, dental infections, inter-oral ulcers, and altered jaw shape and facial structure. But the habit can be stopped using various effective ways. At TruCare Dentistry, we provide a wide range of dental services at excellent prices. If you’re a resident of Alpharetta, Dunwoody, Marietta, Milton, Sandy Springs, or Woodstock, then you don’t have to look any further. Contact us to schedule a visit.