During infancy, children may turn to a variety of “sucking” behaviors in order to self-soothe. The most common of these is thumb sucking, though pacifier use is also quite common. These forms of self-soothing are usually harmless in infancy, but when they extend into early childhood, they lead to the development of dental issues.
How Sucking Thumbs or Fingers Can impact Your Child’s Teeth
In fact, there are a number of ways in which sucking behaviors can adversely impact your child’s teeth or their overall health. Some examples include:
- The most serious effect is malocclusion, also known as an open bite. This describes a type of dental misalignment that is notable even when the mouth is closed.
- Long-term thumb sucking may also result in an overbite, a type of malocclusion in which the top teeth cover the bottom teeth any time the mouth is closed.
- Thumb sucking can contribute to speech impediments. Because thumb and finger sucking results in shifting to the teeth, jaw, or palette, it can affect your child’s ability to form certain sounds.
How to Stop Harmful Behaviors
There are a few tips and strategies we recommend for parents who wish to put an end to their child’s thumb sucking behaviors.
- Reinforce positive behaviors. Sticker/reward charts can work really well for most kids.
- Start by eliminating thumb sucking during daytime, then naps, and finally nighttime.
- Consider the use of Mavala thumb polish and/or fabric gloves.
- Consider painting a face on the thumb with a non-toxic marker, a gentle reminder to your child.
Talk with a Pediatric Dentist
For additional insights, or a consultation regarding early-stage dental concerns, we recommend scheduling a consultation with a pediatric dentist.
As you search for a pediatric dentist near you, keep Wilson Pediatric Dentistry in mind. We are happy to serve kids and parents throughout the Wilson, NC community. Schedule a consultation appointment with us at any time.