Babies and young children adopt many different habits to soothe themselves. While you may be elated to see that your newborn has found his or her thumb to go to sleep at night, you are probably not as thrilled about your preschooler’s persistence with the habit. As children get older, parents primary concern with thumbsucking is the affect it can have on children’s teeth. This is a valid concern.
During thumbsucking, there is constant pressure on the teeth. This may influence bone growth or even alter the shape of the roof of the mouth. The front upper teeth may start to push out while bottom teeth cave in. An equally important consequence from thumbsucking is the potential for speech and swallowing challenges.
While the bad news about thumbsucking can be scary (or costly), there is some good news. Most children drop their thumb soothing habit by about age 3 or 4. At this point, there is usually no harm done. However, if you have a school-aged child (age 5 or older) that gravitates towards that thumb frequently throughout the day, you may be in for some trouble.
What Can You Do?
Always try a positive approach when helping your child break a thumbsucking habit. Remember this is what they have used to soothe themselves since they were babies in most cases. You may try replacing this habit with a lovey or other item to help your child adapt to a different habit of security.
In more severe cases or when your child is older and still sucking his or her thumb, you can enlist the help of a dentist. There are special products that can be painted on the thumbnail. These solutions taste very bitter and discourage the child from putting the thumb in the mouth. If you’ve tried everything to no avail, you can ask your dentist about a “tongue crib” that fits in the roof of their mouth to prohibit thumbsucking. Be aware that this device can be very frustrating for a child at first.
If your child sucks his or her thumb, don’t stress yourself out too much – unless it’s getting time to go to school. At Ora Dentistry, we treat children with compassionate, superior care. If we suspect a problem with your child’s teeth due to thumbsucking, we will take a proactive approach and work with you to determine the best solution before the habit ruins their smile.