March 12, 2019
At an early age thumbsucking is harmless. It helps an infant self-soothe and is a natural newborn reflex. Let’s face it, it’s also kinda cute. But extended thumbsucking past a certain age can lead to dental issues later on in life. Especially if your child is still thumbsucking when permanent teeth start to come in around five-years-old.
Preventing your child from thumbsucking beyond this pivotal age can help defray the cost of orthodontic treatment in teenage years.
The damage to your child’s oral health from thumbsucking depends on a number of factors, including how often and how long you child sucks his or her thumb. Effects range from misaligned jaw (overbite or crossbite) to buck teeth and soft tissue damage that can result in years of orthodontic and dental treatment to fix.
Nipping the thumbsucking habit in the bud can be hard but not impossible.
First, you need to remind yourself that children feel comforted by thumbsucking so cajoling or punishing a child to get them to stop is not the right approach to take. Instead, techniques that are positive and encouraging often work better and lead to less frustration for both parent and child. You can even try a reward method, where you give your child a prize for successfully refraining from thumbsucking for a predetermined period of time - say, an hour before bedtime or after dinner. Stickers to reward children helps encourage them and feel good about achieving their goal. Thumbsucking can give children a sense of security when they are stressed. You can help by trying to identify what stressors are triggering your child to continue to suck his or her thumb. Identifying and removing the stress or alleviating their fears might help break the habit.
You can also try a bandaid or some other covering on the thumb to prevent the child from sucking. Your pediatric dentist or orthodontist can help. There are methods a dentist can recommend to stop thumbsucking in later years.
If your child is old enough to understand, Dr. Brown at Let’s Smile Dental in Springfield can sit with him/her to explain why they should stop and what will happen to their teeth if they don’t. Sometimes an authority figure like a doctor can have more of an influence than a parent with these issues.
For thumbsuckers who want to stop, Let’s Smile Dental can also provide an appliance that will make the act more difficult and less enjoyable. Some appliances are removable and for intense thumbsuckers a device that is cemented in might be an option.
Just a quick note for new parents, those planning on a second, or you overachievers reading up on thumb sucking early: Is your infant’s or child’s tongue movement restricted by a little band of tissue at the tip of their tongue attached to the base of the mouth? It’s a common condition known as tongue tie. The Let’s Smile Dental team is experienced with resolving tongue tie issues through a laser procedure () done in-office. It’s a simple procedure and can make a huge difference with feeding. Let us know if we can help! Click below or call 703-719-5828 today to schedule a consultation. We can’t wait to meet you!