Thumb Sucking and Bite Issues

By October 18, 2017Oral Health
Thumb sucking

Suckling is a survival instinct babies are born with. It helps them to get the sustenance needed to grow and develop. Because of this, it’s only natural that infants, toddlers, and even young children find sucking to be a comforting and calming activity, which is why so many end up sucking their thumbs.

The unfortunate side effect is that it can be difficult to break kids of this habit. As children get older, however, the activity can begin to cause problems. Compulsively sucking a thumb, a pacifier, or other objects can cause bite issues as teeth grow in. Why is this a big deal, and what can parents do about it? Here’s what you should know.

Detriments of Thumb Sucking

You might not think thumb sucking is a big deal early on since baby teeth will fall out to be replaced by permanent teeth. However, if baby teeth come in crooked, permanent teeth are likely to follow suit, especially if thumb sucking continues into later childhood. Sucking can cause not only misaligned teeth, but also overbite, underbite, and malformed jaws.

Sucking is a powerful instinct, and kids can suck their thumbs so hard that they change the shape of the roof of the mouth and cause front teeth to angle outward. This can lead to unsightly bites, but more importantly, to bite issues that make it difficult to chew solid food. It could even cause speech impediments.

Over time, the problems will persist and worsen if thumb sucking goes unchecked. Down the road, your child’s dentist will have to work hard to correct bite issues, and you’ll likely face orthodontia that might not otherwise have been necessary. In other words, parents need to be aware of the issue so that they can find ways to spare their children from years of corrective procedures.

What Can You Do?

The place to start is by consulting with your dentist. Many children will stop sucking their thumbs on their own between the ages of two and four. If thumb sucking persists, however, you need to work with your dentist to create a plan to deal with the issue.

Kids who use thumb sucking as a coping mechanism can become extremely anxious when parents try to put a stop to the activity, so you need to proceed with some level of understanding and sensitivity. You may want to replace thumb sucking with a substitute source of comfort like a teddy bear or a blanket to cuddle, or with new coping mechanisms. Your dentist can help you to come up with a game plan that is most likely to succeed without unduly stressing your child.