Thumb sucking and its effects on the development of the teeth, jaw, and palate

Are you concerned about the effects of thumb sucking on your child’s jaw and teeth? Here are some things you need to know.

Passive thumb sucking is not harmful to the baby but soothes any dental irritations and calms the baby but, this is of approval till the age of 3. It is after the age of 3 that babies begin developing their teeth, jaw, and palate.

During the growing age, when thumb sucking becomes a habit, the child finds it difficult to eat and speak and may cause lisping and other speech impairments. This becomes incurable without the help of an orthodontist as highly qualified speech therapists have not been able to solve this.

The shape of your jaw and palate forms the sounds in relation to the tongue and the teeth. This results in the difficulty for the child to pronounce the letters “D” and “T” because of them being consonant sounds.

Prolonged Side-effects of Thumb Sucking on the Mouth

When your child is sucking on the thumb there is repetitive pressure on your palate and the jawbone which affects the arrangement of the teeth in the jaw. It may cause:

  • Frontal teeth protrude out of the jaw and the mouth.
  • Bottom teeth to push inwards.
  • Mishap arrangement of the teeth may not line the top teeth with the bottom teeth when the mouth is closed.
  • The shape of the jaw changes which may cause speech impairment.
  • The roof of the mouth–palate may be hypersensitive.

You must make sure the thumb sucking habit is gone way before the permanent teeth start coming in or else it could be difficult to resolve the issues above.

If you notice your child’s teeth are growing outwards and not in the alignment of the jaw, or your child seems to have a problem while talking and eating, you would want to visit a pediatric dentist about your concerns.

How long does thumb sucking usually last?

After the age of 6 months, children tend to quit sucking on their thumb by themselves but sometimes it may be between ages 2 and 4 years too.

But even a child who's stopped sucking his or her thumb may go back to thumb sucking during times of stress.

How to stop thumb sucking?

Helping your child to stop sucking on the thumb depends upon their age as well. For younger kids, below the age of 3, you may find it difficult to reinforce this behavior as this becomes a way for them to get constant attention from you.

In older children, talking may be enough for them to quit sucking on their thumb. Otherwise, as they begin going to kindergarten or pre-school, they may start resisting due to peer pressure.

Here are some ways in which you can help your child to quit sucking on their thumb:

1. Take their thumb-sucking triggers away

Children often suck on their thumb when there is something that triggers them to do so. For instance, some children tend to suck on their thumb when they are bored, tired, anxious, or sleepy. If you notice them sucking on their thumb while they are bored, try to engage them by playing catch or giving them crayons and paper to draw.

If they are sucking on their thumb due to stress and anxiety, talk to them and get to know the root cause of their anxiety so you can help them to quit and also commute with you about their feelings.

2. Positively reinforce them

Engage your child in wanting to stop sucking on the thumb as this will motivate them to do so and also would not feel like you nagging them to quit. You would want to calmly talk them out of the behavior and praise them when you notice them not sucking on the thumb.

You can also reward them by developing a sticker chartbook with them that would motivate them and also ensure that you are on their side.

3. Use thumb shields

If you notice your child sucking on the thumb in their sleep, remember – it is not something they can control. They are various rubber or fabric thumb shields available easily without prescription that work as a gentle reminder for your child to not suck on the thumb.

Overnight, you can cover your child’s thumb with a mitten, glove, or sock so that they cannot suck on their thumb.

Is a pacifier a good alternative?

Thumb-sucking has its benefits as it soothes and relaxes the baby’s reflexive behavior. They need to learn and be taught to use a self-soothing mechanism to cope with stressful situations. Some parents believe pacifiers are what is going to help their children quit sucking on their thumb.

Giving your child a pacifier is the last thing you want to do as they are more commendable to causing tooth damage than a thumb can. Pacifiers are also more potent to get dirty and the germs may end up in their mouth.

Thumb sucking habit is something a child develops in the womb, before birth. This is why it is more challenging for them to quit sucking on their thumb. There are special orthodontic devices that your pediatric dentist could recommend that are best for your child. Children are also more prone to listen to them than you when it comes to breaking their habits, in matter precisely. You also do not want to be the one to break to your child the horrifying consequences of thumb sucking.

If you are not sure if your child’s thumb-sucking habit has caused any damage, book an appointment today or call us at (613)-270-1001

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