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The Dangers of Thumb Sucking

Not all children are thumb suckers. Some children will like to put their fingers in their mouth and while this doesn’t seem like a troublesome habit, it is as detrimental to the development of your child’s mouth as thumb sucking. It is safe to say that if your child is very attached to thumb sucking or pacifiers or their fingers, they are not alone. Most children go through a point of thumbsucking in their lives.

The reason children suck their thumbs is the same reason they will cuddle their blanket… it makes them feel safe. It is a very relaxing behavior and on an instinctive level they know that. It is also comforting in times of anxiety, fear, and boredom. For further information on children dentistry visit here.
Officially, the age which them sucking becomes a problem is after five. But prior to that, there can be indications of dental problems. Generally, unless the problem could be permanent, the baby teeth do not get much corrective care. Children who are voracious thumb suckers may have baby teeth which have gaps or grow in crooked. Most of the time though, prior to age 5, thumb sucking will not cause problems.

It is when the adult teeth begin to form that misalignments will have more severe effects. Children who do not stop sucking their thumbs on their own are more likely to carry the habit after the development of the adult teeth begins. Thumb sucking does not always lead to dental problems. The frequency and intensity of the sucking motion will both play large role in determining if dental problems develop and how severe they may be.

As the adult teeth form, thumb sucking can make the teeth tip forward so they lean towards the lips. There can also be gaps in between teeth and gum damage as a result of the improperly aligned teeth. Later, braces and/or other corrective methods, occasionally surgery, are required to restore the tooth position. This is not only costly monetarily, it can do damage to your child’s self esteem.

The adult teeth develop as children are becoming more comfortable with language and social interaction. Speech problems can result from having teeth in the incorrect place. Even after the position of teeth is restored, speech therapy may be required in order to remove these problems. If the problem is noticeable, it can lead to shyness, sometimes chronic shyness and inattentiveness in class.

Though it may seem small in comparison, children who are fervent thumb suckers may develop thick callus’ on their thumbs. Though the risk is small, some children may have a more difficult time holding a pencil as it can be painful. This happens in very few children but the risk does exist.

There are countless websites which write about how to break the thumb sucking habit. Most experts will agree that until the age of five or six, thumb sucking and pacifiers are fine. It is not until the permanent formation of the mouth begins that thumb sucking can be harmful. Dental visits when teeth first develop will give your dentist a chance to stop bad habits before they start.


Thumbsucking topic overview

Oral Health problems with children

How thumb sucking affects teeth alignment

Sucking on pacifier true or false?

Copyright Dr.Jean-Jacques Edderai – 2015