Thumb-sucking and its Effects on Mouth and Teeth Development

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Andrew Slavin, DMD, FACS

Andrew Slavin, DMD, FACS

April 3, 2018

How Your Child’s Thumb-Sucking Affects Dental Health

Thumb-sucking is one of the most natural things for babies and toddlers to do, and it’s often a behavior most parents never give a second thought to most of the time. Children often suck their thumbs to soothe themselves while going to sleep. One of the main reasons babies do this is to feel more secure, and another is as a natural part of learning about their surroundings, hence the habit of occasionally sucking on toys.

How Thumb-Sucking Can Affect Teeth

Parents often rightfully worry about whether thumb-sucking will result in a need for an expensive cosmetic procedure down the road. When a child continues sucking after they have permanent teeth, both the tooth alignment and the mouth’s proper growth can be affected. The roof of the mouth can also see changes due to this behavior, which makes intervention necessary in some cases to ensure a child is still able to chew properly.

The Impact on Alignment

When a child’s teeth grow in, it is normal for the upper teeth to overlap the lower teeth. However, thumbs put extra pressure on the gums, which can keep the teeth from erupting in the right position for a proper bite. Possible problems with teeth that grow in abnormally can result in drastic steps, like dental implants being needed years later.

How Sucking Affects Bite

A common problem that oral surgery professionals often see in thumb-suckers is an open bite. When a child develops an open bite, there is a space between the upper and lower teeth when the child bites. Severe enough open bites can affect tooth alignment to the point where an oral surgeon’s intervention is necessary to help ensure the child can continue to chew properly.

A Changed Appearance

One of the most obvious effects of an open bite is a child’s smile being affected. The teeth not coming together gives a child’s smile a less-than-satisfactory appearance. A cosmetic procedure may be necessary to restore the smile’s appearance.

Speech Issues

Another problem that sucking can cause is speech issues, which can have serious consequences for a child on a social level. Speaking with a lisp is one problem that children may encounter and find difficult to overcome. Other speech impediments may also become an issue, making the need for oral surgery all the more likely so the child can both speak and be understood clearly.

Intervention to Prevent Mouth Issues

Many dentists recommend ensuring that children do not persist in thumb-sucking after age three to avoid oral problems. Parents often find success in using positive reinforcement methods to discourage children from sucking. However, these efforts should be used in tandem with proper oral care habits that include regular dentist’s visits, which makes it easier to identify oral issues before they become serious.

Good Oral Care

A child should see a dentist regularly starting from the age of one year as well as establish an oral care routine. When he or she gets used to brushing and other care habits at an early age, it will be easier for them to keep their teeth in good condition. The healthier a child’s mouth and teeth, the easier it is to mitigate any problems that arise.

Dental implants can help correct many oral health conditions, and at Good Samaritan Dental Institute, we can assist with many dental issues using the expertise of our oral surgeon in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Andrew Slavin, DMD, FACS

Andrew Slavin, DMD, FACS

Hello there, great choice moving towards the personal dental health care you desire!

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