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Does "Thumb Sucking" Negatively Affect the Outcome of your Child's Teeth?

Thumb-sucking is a natural and normal habit adopted by some children even before they are born. With the help of ultrasound technology, physicians have documented babies who appear to be sucking their thumbs in the womb. For millions of small children, the habit is soothing and comforting, especially during times of stress or at bedtime. In fact, many children simply outgrow the habit on their own. Still, the habit can be particularly alarming for parents and caregivers who are concerned about the long-term impact of thumb-sucking.

Children who are able to stop the habit around the ages of 2 or 3 are not typically at risk for damaging their natural teeth. Children who are unable to refrain from sucking the thumb or fingers may require the help and support from the dentist in order to prevent future damage.

It is certainly important to identify and address this habit during the toddler years since thumb-sucking can lead to a number of preventable dental conditions including:

  • Crooked teeth
  • Open bite
  • High, narrow palate
  • Speech disorders

You may find that it is difficult to assess the severity of your child’s oral health conditions on your own. You should feel free to discuss your concerns with your dentist for assistance and advice. You may find that no treatment is necessary at this time, or you may learn more about the most appropriate strategies for helping your child to break the habit.

If you suspect that your child may have a problem with thumb-sucking, there are a number of strategies that can be employed to encourage them to quit. Positive reinforcement and behavior modification has proven to be especially helpful in phasing out thumb-sucking without punishing your child. Many children also find that sucking the thumb is less acceptable when they are socialized with other children who are not thumb-suckers.

Your dentist can provide specialized, kid-friendly solutions for addressing this very common childhood habit. Find out more by calling to schedule a dental appointment for your child today.

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