Thumbsucking and its effects

by: Sandy Johnson, RDH, BA

As a parent, I’m all too familiar with the unpleasant habit some children have of sucking their thumbs. What starts as a cute comfort mechanism for babies can turn into a serious dental problem down the road. 

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, over time thumb sucking can put undue pressure on the inside of the mouth, on the sides of the jaw and on the roof of the mouth. This narrows the upper jaw, ultimately causing a child’s teeth to meet improperly. This can lead to speech difficulties, such as a lisp or the inability to form words correctly. Other common complications are a cross-bite, where a child ends up biting one side of their mouth, or a “thumb hole,” where the back teeth end up with a disproportionate amount of chewing responsibilities.

Children usually stop sucking their thumbs between the ages of two and four. If they don’t stop, or you are concerned about your child’s thumbsucking habit, talk to your dentist or dental hygienist and ask for advice on how to curb the habit before it turns into a more challenging oral health situation.

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