Thumb Sucking Can Be Harmful To Your Infant - Here's Why

Thumb sucking is a normal habit for infants, particularly once your child grows older and is no longer exclusively breastfed or bottle-fed. But excessive thumb sucking can be harmful to infants, and compromise their future oral health. 

Read on to see how thumb sucking can be harmful to your child, and learn about the steps you can take to deal with this issue.

Why Is Thumb Sucking Harmful To Infants And Children? 

There are a few reasons why thumb sucking can be a harmful habit for infants, toddlers, and older kids. Let’s take a look at them now. 

  • Dental malocclusion (bite problems) – If thumb sucking persists past the age of 4 when the permanent teeth begin to emerge, it can cause serious bite problems, such as an open bite or an overbite. This is because the pressure of regular thumb sucking helps thrust the teeth forward, and prevents the proper development of the teeth and the palate.
  • Skin problems – Over time, your child’s preferred thumb may begin to crack, dry out, or bleed, causing a higher risk of infection. It may also become calloused, or the pressure and moisture of thumb sucking can cause problems with the fingernail, such as warping or peeling of the nail.
  • Speech impediments – Serious bite problems and oral developmental issues can result in speech impediments. Kids with thumb sucking habits often have trouble with hard consonant sounds like “D” and “T.” Speech therapy may be required to correct these issues.

When Should My Child Stop Thumb Sucking?

We recommend that children stop thumb sucking between the ages of 2-4. Typically, thumb sucking is not exceptionally harmful if your child only has their baby teeth. 

But when their adult teeth begin to emerge, thumb sucking can begin to warp their palate and affect their bite. Your child should stop thumb sucking before this time to avoid major dental health issues, and the other issues outlined above. 

How Can I Stop My Child From Sucking Their Thumb? 

There are a few different things you can do to break the habit of thumb sucking in your child. Here are a few recommendations from Skutak Dental. 

  • Switch to a pacifier – Prolonged pacifier use should also be discouraged. But, switching to a pacifier can help your child break the habit of thumb sucking. And, because a pacifier is easier to take away, it will be easier to wean them off of the pacifier when it’s time to stop using it.
  • Use positive reinforcement – Thumb sucking is often a response to environmental stress and discomfort. Yelling at your child or punishing them for sucking their thumb could just make things worse. Instead, use positive reinforcement, and praise and encourage them when they don’t suck their thumb.
  • Create a reward system – This can help your child break their habit of thumb sucking. You can create a reward chart and provide them with little rewards every time they go a day without sucking their thumb.

Need More Help Or Information About Thumb Sucking? Come To Skutak Dental! 

At Skutak Dental, Dr. Lisa Skutak has years of experience in family dentistry. If you’d like more information about thumb sucking, or you need help getting your child to break the habit, we’re here to help. Contact us online or give us a call at (715) 355-4433 to schedule a consultation, and get the help you need in Rothschild, Wausau, or Schofield.

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