How Thumb Sucking Affects Your Child’s Bite

Thumb sucking is a very common habit for infants and young toddlers. But is it bad for your little one’s bite if they continue to suck their thumb? Find out everything you need to know about thumb sucking and its effect on childhood oral development from Willow Pediatric Dentistry

Is Thumb Sucking Bad For My Child’s Bite?

This depends on your child. Prolonged thumb sucking that continues for years while your child’s adult teeth erupt can cause oral development issues, but if your child is very young and stops sucking on their thumb at an early age (2-4, for example), it’s likely that there will be no serious issues related to thumb sucking.

The primary reason that thumb sucking is harmful is that it alters the development of your child’s adult teeth as they grow. The excessive pressure of the tongue and finger can modify the natural shape of the jaw and the position of the teeth, causing oral development problems.

These include a narrow, high palate, teeth that don’t touch when your child’s mouth is completely closed (open bite), and teeth that stick out too far forward (overjet). These issues may need to be corrected with multiple costly orthodontic treatments, so it’s best to discourage thumb sucking and stop them before they occur. 

At What Age Should My Child Stop Thumb Sucking?

As a rule, your child should stop thumb sucking by the time their adult teeth have begun to erupt, which starts to happen at about the age of 6. Ideally, though, your little one should try to break the habit by the age of 4, at the latest.

How Can I Encourage My Child To Stop Thumb Sucking?

There are a few ways you encourage your child to stop thumb sucking. Here are a few top tips from Willow Pediatric Dentistry. 

  • Discourage all-day thumb sucking – Restricting thumb sucking to right before bedtime, for example, is a good way to wean your child off of the habit.
  • Create a reward system – Give your child a reward whenever they go an hour, a day, or longer without sucking their thumb. You could even create a “gold star” system to track their progress for a longer period of time, like a week or a month.
  • Use a pacifier from a young age – Prolonged pacifier use is also bad for your child’s teeth. But if you use a pacifier from a very young age, they will be less likely to develop a thumb sucking habit, so it’s easier to take the pacifier away from your little one when it’s time to break their habit.
  • Try anti-thumb sucking polish – There are many types of nail polish marketed to help stop thumb sucking and nail biting. They contain a nasty-tasting, yet harmless chemical that will discourage your child from continuing to suck their thumb. 

Need Help From A Dentist? Contact Willow Pediatric Dentistry Today! 

Whether you want more information about thumb sucking, need help getting your child to break the habit, or just need a routine pediatric dental appointment for your little one in Rancho Santa Margarita, Dr. Sam and the team at Willow Pediatric Dentistry are here to help. Give us a call at (949) 966-0669 or contact us online to schedule a consultation right away.

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