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How Can Thumb-Sucking Affect Your Child’s Oral Development?

February 9, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — drchenet @ 2:39 pm

Thumb and pacifier-sucking aren’t totally bad habits! In fact, they’re great coping skills for infants to comfort themselves. It’s not until a certain age, when their oral cavity starts developing and teeth begin growing in that this habit can begin to cause some problems. Read on to learn how thumb-sucking can affect your child and what you can do to help them stop doing it this Children’s Dental Health Month.

Why Do Children Suck Their Thumbs?

If your infant starts sucking their thumb or is only appeased when you put a pacifier in their mouth, you’re not doing anything wrong! They’re actually born with an instinct to do this, and it’s a completely healthy and natural habit. You shouldn’t keep them from doing this either, because it can be an early tool to help them cope when they’re away from you and help themselves feel safe and comfortable. A study conducted by a doctor even found that you can reduce your child’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by offering them a pacifier whenever they nap or sleep.

When Should a Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb?

It’s safe to say that thumb-sucking and pacifier use isn’t harmful for infants; however, once your child gets to the age of around three or four, you’ll want to start encouraging them to break the habit. This is because at this age, their mouth will be in its key development stages. The constant intense, long, and forceful suction from their habit can cause their oral cavity to develop with a misaligned bite or jutted out teeth, which will require serious orthodontic intervention down the road. It can also lead to narrowed airways that can make breathing difficult.

Encouraging Weaning for Healthy, Developing Smiles

There are a few different ways that you can help wean your child from their pacifier or thumb, depending on which they prefer:

  • Cut the nipple of a pacifier or a poke a hole in it to make the sucking sensation less-satisfying for your child.
  • Sticker charts are a great way to keep track of how many days your little one hasn’t sucked their thumb or pacifier, making them feel like they’re achieving great things!
  • Keep their hands busy if they’re bored or nervous and want to suck their thumb or pacifier.
  • Give them a non-food reward like letting them choose the movie for family movie night to encourage them to break their habit.

With positive reinforcement and a little time, your child should be able to kick their habit. Then, you’ll be able to rest-assured that their smile will develop healthily, and they’ll be less-likely to face severe orthodontic issues as they get older.

About the Author

Dr. Derek Chenet has always been passionate about helping families in his community maintain healthy smiles. He’s happy to treat patients of all ages, including children and infants, and offers a wide range of kid-friendly preventive treatments, like dental sealants, tooth-colored fillings, and even tips to help your child stop sucking their thumb. For questions or to schedule an appointment for your family, visit Dental Excellence Melbourne’s website or call 321-255-0199.

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