Thumb Sucking: Its Impact on Oral Health


Thumb sucking is a natural reflex for children, a habit that gives them comfort and security during their infancy and early childhood stages. It is common among young children and infants, but when extended, it impacts the oral health of the child negatively, explains a Dentist in Bristol, Connecticut. Thumb sucking causes dental and orthodontic problems among children, and parents should ensure that they address the habit. The article focuses on the impact of thumb-sucking on oral health and the various complications that are associated with the habit.

Thumb Sucking on Teeth and Jaw Development

Thumb sucking has numerous effects on teeth and jaw development, and the first is:

  •       Open bite: It occurs when the front teeth do not touch when the child with the habit tries to reach the tongue to the upper lips.
  •   Malocclusion: It includes overbite, underbite, or crossbite in which the lower and upper sets of teeth do not touch properly.
  •         Narrow Palate: It happens when constant pressure from the thumb tightens the roof of the mouth and limits the passage of the teeth.
  •         Changes in facial structure: It occurs in severe cases that affect the facial muscles and bones.

How to Prevent Dental and Orthodontic Problems Associated with Thumb Sucking?

Just like any reflex, thumb sucking is common in a child’s infancy, and parents need to make sure that the habit does not last for very long. The dental or orthodontic problems affecting children due to thumb sucking can be managed through:

Positive reinforcement: Parents and guardians should provide praise and rewards when the child avoids sucking the thumb.

Identifying triggers: It is important to note down the timeline, situations, or emotions when children tend to suck their thumbs and encourage them to find alternatives.

Provide distractions: The hands should remain busy, and parents need to provide activities or toys that keep the children distracted from the habit.

If the child has a thumb-sucking habit beyond the age of three or four, consult a dentist or an orthodontist for advice on how to address and prevent further dental and orthodontic problems. Thumb sucking is a significant reflex that characterizes children and instigates their infancy and early childhood with comfort and security but creates long-lasting implications for children’s oral health. Parents should address the habit and seek dentists’ or dental specialists’ advice to prevent future dental and orthodontic problems.

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