My Child Sucks Their Thumb; Is this Bad for Their Teeth?

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The answer to this question is not as simple as yes or no. Digit sucking, more commonly known as thumb sucking, is a common habit formed by children. Sometimes, the habit can form before the child is even born.

Sucking on a digit or thumb provides comfort and soothes the child, so you will likely notice your child habit intensifying around nap time/bedtime or when they are in a new environment that they are unsure of.

If a child’s digit/thumb sucking habit is not broken by the time their permanent teeth start to erupt, serious dental problems can arise. Permanent teeth may begin to erupt crooked, and the roof of their mouth may start to be malformed. This results from the frequency, duration, intensity, and position of the digit in the child’s mouth.

A normal bite will have the upper teeth overlapping the lower teeth. If thumb/digit sucking persists, the pressure expelled by the thumb, finger, or pacifier resting on the gum will interfere with tooth eruption and jaw growth. This can result in ‘open bite’ where your child’s teeth do not overlap; instead, there is an open space between the upper and lower teeth.

Breaking your child’s thumb/digit sucking habit is essential to preserving the healthy development of their teeth. Still, you must be careful not to intervene too soon. Take our following suggestions into account when you are thinking about beginning to break the habit.

Suggestions to Break the Habit

Wait till the time is right (low stress)

Motivate your child (show examples of what could happen to their teeth and fingers/thumbs)

Use a reward system (small incentives will encourage your child to stick with it)

Let us help (Dr. Leach will talk with your child and help them understand how it will help their teeth to break the habit)

Get Creative (You know your child best; there might be a method that would be motivating to them. An idea if your child has a habit of sucking on a pacifier is to tie it to the end of a balloon string and send it away to the tooth fairy. That night, have the tooth fairy leave them a note on their pillow.)

Why Are Regularly Scheduled Dental Health Checkups Necessary?

Digit/thumb sucking is one reason why maintaining a regular dental health checkup schedule is important. Beginning at age one year, your child should visit the dentist twice a year to make sure their oral health and development is on track. Our registered hygienists and certified pediatric dentist will teach you and your child effective oral hygiene habits to prevent tooth decay and maintain healthy teeth and gums. If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Leach, give our team a call at Michael J. Leach D.D.S. Pediatric Dentistry Phone Number (770) 521-8855 or fill out an online appointment request form.