How Thumb Sucking Affects A Child's Oral Health

It’s perfectly normal for children to suck on their thumbs or use a pacifier when they are young. They feel the need to do so as a way to soothe themselves when they are feeling emotional, and will often want to bite the pacifier when their first baby teeth start appearing.

However, prolonged behaviors like thumb sucking these can harm your child’s dental health over time.

How Thumb Sucking Influences Your Child’s Dental Development

Thumb sucking or using a pacifier usually only becomes a problem if the child is five years old or older, and still feels the need to suck their thumb. As their teeth grow, thumb sucking can lead to several types of issues with their bite, jaw health, and even their speech.

Here are some of the most common issues that prolonged thumb sucking can lead to:

  • Teeth Misalignment - Thumb sucking can cause the teeth to grow in an improper position, which can affect the way the child talks or how well they can chew their food. The most common form of misalignment in this sense is an open bite. Because the child sucks on their thumbs so much, the upper and bottom teeth do not come in contact with each other, even if the mouth is closed.
  • Jaw Problems - The sucking motion places additional pressure on the child’s jaw from a very early age, which can affect their development. It can even change a child’s facial features, on top of leading to jaw misalignments.
  • Speech Issues - The bite or jaw problems caused by prolonged thumb sucking can lead to speech impediments, such as lisps, or difficulties pronouncing certain sounds, particularly the ‘R’ sound. While many children can struggle with these sounds, usually they will be able to pronounce them as their speech develops, but if the issue starts from the bite, then it’s highly unlikely that they will grow out of it without intervention.

How Can You Help Your Child With Thumb Sucking?

Taking your child to regular dentist appointments is one of the best things you can do to stay on top of their oral health needs. During these appointments, the dentist will inspect the child’s mouth and be able to spot any issues with their bite or jaw alignment early, and act swiftly.

There are also some things parents can do to gently discourage thumb sucking in their children as they get older:

  • Replace this soothing habit with something else, such as holding their favorite toy!
  • Help them become aware of this habit, and praise them for not sucking on their thumb.
  • Restrict when your child can use the pacifier so that it does not become a prolonged habit.

Bring Your Child to Little Smiles Pediatric Dentistry in Ashburn

If you are worried about what prolonged thumb sucking is doing to your child’s oral health, Little Smiles Pediatric Dentistry is happy to help. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Jonathon Konz today!

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