Children are excellent at putting things in their mouths, this includes toys and fingers. It’s natural for them to explore the world around them and this leads to them sucking their thumb or finger. In very young children it is considered normal. In fact, many parents use pacifiers to help soothe and calm children.

How Thumb-sucking Can Be Detrimental For Children’s Oral Health - 800+ words

In most cases, children stop sucking their thumb naturally between, the age of two and four. However, as thumb sucking can have a number of negative effects, the sooner your child stops thumb sucking and gives up the pacifier the better.

The Damaging Side-Effects Of Thumb Sucking

Although sucking their thumb seems like a harmless pastime you may be surprised by the amount of force that the sucking motion places on the jaw, regardless of whether it is in an adult or a child. The forces push on the teeth and jawbone, gradually moving the teeth out of their natural alignment.

Research shows that sucking your thumb is likely to cause an overbite. The pressure of sucking pushes the front teeth forward, causing them to sit further forward than the lower teeth. That’s known as an overbite and something that will need to be corrected in conjunction with a good pediatric dentist in Sydney.

It’s interesting to note that creating an overbite means that the shape of your face will also be changed.

Alongside this, the top and bottom teeth can also be forced out of alignment. This creates a small gap that your tongue can poke through, generally referred to as an open bite. It can make it harder to eat food.

It is also possible that the movement of the teeth and change in mouth structure will cause a lisp. Because the teeth are no longer in their correct positions the mouth can’t form the speech sounds correct, resulting in the lisp or other speech issues.

You should also note that the above conditions can lead to children feeling different. This can result in stunted emotional growth, depression, and an array of psychological issues.

It is also essential to note that if the thumb sucking doesn’t stop it will continue into adulthood. This will increase the likelihood of damage to the position of adult teeth and alter the jawline. Adult braces will be needed to correct this.

How To Help Your Child Stop Thumb Sucking

It’s natural for young child to put their thumb in their mouth. Simply explaining to them why it’s not a good idea is not likely to be enough to make them stop. However, this is a good starting point and their dentist can confirm what you have said.

To make sure they stop sucking their thumb you can try the following:

  • Create A Chart

One of the most effective approaches is to create a chart. It should show how long they have managed to go without sucking their thumb. It may not seem like much at the start but once they have been going for a few days they will get excited about the look of the chart.

You can make it even more appealing by having a reward when they reach a certain number of days.

  • Encourage them

Whenever you see them put their thumb in or near their mouth and then stop by themselves, give them plenty of praise. This takes willpower and isn’t always easy. Praise and cuddles will help them to want to keep trying to stop.

  • Distract Them

Children are generally easy to distract. That means if they are sucking their thumb you should be able to give them a toy, get them drawing and painting, or even do some exercise with them. This will distract them from sucking their thumb and they will quickly forget all about it.

  • Cover Their Thumb

Children that are willing to stop sucking but are struggling will often find it useful to have the thumb covered. This means using a glove or a bandage. You can cover the thumb they suck. When they go to suck it they’ll find it’s harder and they are reminded that they are trying to stop.

Additional Help

It is also possible to get special paint from the pharmacist that tastes horrible but is harmless, this can deter your child from thumb sucking. Don’t forget that your child may drift back into this comfortable habit, you’ll need to keep an eye on them and gently remind them of their goal.

Alongside this, you can also chat with your dentist to see what solutions they have to offer. You may be surprised at what they can do to help. At the very least they will be able to monitor the issue and advise when changes are occurring and additional actions may be necessary.