Will Thumb Sucking Hurt My Child’s Teeth?

Thumb sucking is a common habit children develop at an early age, and most of them grow out of it over time. With that in mind, this act could have a negative impact on your child’s smile if it is allowed to occur for a prolonged period of time. In the information below, we will answer the question of “Will thumb sucking hurt my child’s teeth?” so you can take good care of your child’s oral health.

Thumb Sucking Risks For Infants

For the most part, an infant sucking on his or her thumb will not experience dental problems later on. The baby teeth that are impacted by the sucking will fall out and permanent teeth will grow in their place. The concern arises once a child’s teeth start to fall out. If your child is approaching that age, it may be wise to get him or her out of the habit of thumb sucking before it becomes a more permanent issue.

Thumb Sucking Risks For Young Children

Thumb sucking becomes a problem when children start to get their adult teeth. The pressure of the suction and the thumb inside your child’s mouth may cause the new teeth to grow in crooked or out of alignment. Depending on how often your child sucks his or her thumb, you could see significant changes in the child’s smile as a result of prolonged thumb-sucking. Common problems include:

  • Crooked or protruding teeth
  • Jaw misalignment
  • Overbites
  • Speech impediments, or difficulties pronouncing certain words
  • Structural changes in the roof of the mouth

Of course, these issues may still develop even if your child is not sucking his or her thumb, but you can minimize the risks by preventing your child from committing this act after infancy.

How To Stop Thumb Sucking

As we indicated before, many children grow out of their thumb sucking stage naturally. Others require a little extra encouragement. One way to help your child stop sucking his or her thumb is to come up with a reward system for not doing it. For instance, if your son normally sucks his thumb while watching TV, you may give him 10 minutes of extra TV time if he lasts through an entire episode of a show without sucking his thumb. Children respond differently to various rewards you may use, so you will have to find out which reward suits your child best.

Keep in mind that many children suck their thumb as a coping mechanism. If you try to punish your child for sucking his or her thumb, you may only make the problem worse. Rewards are far more effective for halting this process.

In addition to the reward system, you may consider putting a bandage on your child’s thumb throughout the day. If the bandage does not taste good, the child may not have as much of a desire to suck his or her thumb. At the very least, the taste of the bandage will be a reminder that this is not something your child should be doing. Pull your child’s thumb out of his or her mouth at night after he or she falls asleep. If your child tends to toss and turn early in the night, you may have to check on him or her a few times to make sure the finger stays out of the mouth.

In the end, your child will be the person who ultimately makes the decision to stop sucking his or her thumb. With positive encouragement and personal growth, he or she should be able to overcome this potentially bad habit.