How Prolonged Thumb-Sucking Can Be Detrimental to a Child’s Oral Health

Unfortunately, thumb-sucking can negativly affect on your child’s oral health, particularly teeth development.

Thumb-sucking seems like a harmless habit common in most children, especially below the age of 7. Between 75% to 95% of all infants suck their thumb, but sometimes the habit may spill into adulthood. In case you didn’t know, thumb-sucking is an instinctive habit that comes naturally to toddlers in times of distress. Sucking their thumbs soothes them and gives them a sense of security.

Unfortunately, thumb-sucking may develop into a habit that does more harm than good. That’s because thumb-sucking can have negative effects on your child’s oral health, particularly teeth development. Below, we’ll look at the dangers of prolonged thumb-sucking.

May Lead to Protruding Front Teeth

The most common side effect of persistent thumb-sucking is protruding front teeth or overbite. When sucking their thumb, children often press their thumb against the part of the gum where their incisors emerge. Over time, this continuous pressure pushes the front teeth forward when they grow, leading to a condition known as an overbite.

Protruding front teeth are aesthetically unappealing and may make your child feel insecure about their appearance. Fortunately, orthodontic treatment can help correct overbite. The earlier it’s corrected, the better it is for your child.

Open Bite

Open-bite is when both the front and bottom teeth become directed outwards. This means the two sets of teeth don’t touch even when your child shuts their mouth. Open bite leads to teeth misalignment and irregular chewing patterns that sometimes lead to discomfort.

Increases Vulnerability to Mouth Ulcers

Children that suck their thumbs are more likely to develop mouth ulcers. This is because when they suck their thumb, it’s likely to scratch their mouth palette, which is still quite soft. Mouth ulcers, in itself, aren’t such a major cause for concern. However, they can make a child avoid tooth brushing because it’s painful. With time, this can develop into a full-blown habit that could lead to various oral health problems in the future.

Promotes Mouth Breathing

When children suck their thumb during bedtime, then drift into sleep, they’ll likely sleep with their mouths open. That’s because they’ll still have their thumb in their mouth. This makes them breathe through their mouths instead of their noses. But what’s the problem with breathing through the mouth?

Mouth breathing can be dangerous because it introduces harmful pathogens that can harm the teeth and gums. Remember, the nose has hairs and mucus to take care of these harmful bacteria; your teeth don’t. As a result, these bacteria might enter a cavity or hole in their teeth and cause intense pain.

How Can You Stop Your Child From Thumb-Sucking?

Verbally telling your child to stop sucking their thumb rarely works. Instead, what you need to do is show them that it’s not okay to suck their thumb. You can do this by simply removing their hand from the mouth whenever they start thumb-sucking. Over time, your child will know that sucking their thumb is a definite no-no.

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Updated: August 31, 2023

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