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Consequences of Thumb Sucking in Children

If your child sucks their thumb, you may be concerned about what affects this will have on their teeth. Here, we’ll explain the consequences of thumb sucking in children and the ways in which you can get them to stop.

thumb sucking child leaning on a bed

How long Is It Acceptable for a Child to Suck Their Thumb?

Children normally start to suck their thumbs when they are infants. At this time, it’s perfectly normal for them to suck their thumb, as it comforts them. However, most children stop sucking their thumb between ages two and four. This often coincides with when their baby teeth start to fall out and their permanent teeth come in. If your child is still sucking their thumb past age four, this could be a problem for their oral health in the long run.

What Are the Consequences of Thumb Sucking in Children?

When a child continues to suck their thumb after their permanent teeth have come in, this can cause a number of oral health issues. The severity of the thumb sucking is directly related to the dental issues, with those that passively rest their thumb in their mouth having less consequences than those who aggressively suck their thumb. The pressure can lead to changes in the mouth such as the development of an over or underbite. Thumb sucking can also affect the developing jaw, causing skeletal changes to the jaw bone and making the teeth misaligned. If your child is an aggressive thumb sucker, this can lead to changes to their palate which affect their bite.

How Do You Get Your Child to Stop Sucking Their Thumb?

One of the most effective ways to get your child to stop sucking their thumb is by simply ignoring the habit. Over time, children come to realize that sucking their thumb is not normal social behavior and they’ll stop on their own. However, if that doesn’t work, you may need to intervene. Try praising them when you catch them not sucking their thumb. This positive reinforcement will work to encourage them to stop the habit.

Because thumb sucking is often a coping mechanism for anxiety, try to identify those situations in which your child feels the need to suck their thumb and then find a way to reduce their stress in those instances whether that’s by giving them hugs to comfort them or maybe giving them a stuffed animal to hold. You can also involve your child in your efforts to get them to stop sucking their thumb by creating a reward system of putting stickers on a calendar for every day they didn’t suck their thumb, or making a sock puppet that they wear to prevent them from sucking. Whatever method you choose, make sure not to criticize them because this will only exacerbate the problem.

If you have any other questions about the consequences of thumb sucking in children or want more advice on how to get them to stop, contact us today!

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Ana Maldonado, DMD

10007 Huebner Rd., Ste. 103 D
San Antonio, TX 78240

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