Thumbs Down: How Thumb Sucking Damages Your Child's Teeth

Posted on: 10 December 2021

Suckling is a natural reflex and one of the first your baby will demonstrate. It's vital for life since it allows feeding. However, that reflexive action may continue long after there is a need, and that can damage your child's teeth and more. Read on and find out more.

Understanding Thumb Sucking

Children may find that using their thumbs, sippy cups, or a pacifier soothes them when they are tired, overexcited, or bored. Once they are weaned from the breast or bottle, it becomes a way to get a positive sensation. It can also be a form of safety for the child, much like a favorite blanket.

Where's the Harm?

Unfortunately, thumb sucking or pacifier use is not just a harmless habit. This practice may harm your child in these ways:

  1. Teeth misalignment that may require orthodontic intervention to correct.
  2. Damage to the roof of the mouth. This area of the mouth can become narrow due to thumb sucking.
  3. Problem with the eruption of baby and permanent teeth.
  4. Poor speech habits.

Making Your Child Stop the Habit

Speak to your child's dentist to find out more about how thumb sucking can permanently affect your child's dental health. Below are some tips on stopping that behavior:

  • The time to begin is when your child begins to talk. Speech habits can become ingrained if you wait too long and allow your child to learn to speak around a thumb or pacifier.
  • Pacifiers can at least be taken away, but you should begin as early as possible by reducing the use gradually. Begin by restricting daytime use and then nighttime use (which may be more difficult to stop). Some parents use mittens or other hand coverings to reduce thumb sucking at night.
  • Observe the times and situations when your child needs to use their thumbs and consider alternatives for them. For example, if they tend to suck their thumbs while in their car seat, consider a handheld interactive toy or stuffed animal to be used only at those times.
  • Use a bedtime routine that never varies. For instance, bathe the child, read them a book, turn on a nightlight, and play soft and calming music as they are put to bed.
  • When your child can stop using a pacifier or thumb, be sure to praise and reward them for it.

It can be extremely challenging to stop your child from soothing themselves using their thumbs or a pacifier. Be patient and contact a local family dental clinic to find out more.