Thumb Sucking: Consequences and Solutions

Many parents are concerned when they notice their young children sucking on fingers or thumbs. This behavior often begins in the womb because sucking is a natural comforting reflex for babies. Children continue the habit because it is soothing for them. However, if it continues for too long, the teeth can be affected.

What kind of problems can be caused by thumb sucking?

  • Overbite (upper front teeth protrude over lower front teeth)
  • Anterior open bite (an open gap in the front when the child is biting down)
  • Crossbite (underdevelopment of upper jaw, causing lower jaw to shift to one side)
  • Weak chin due to lower jaw not developing properly
  • Trouble with speaking or chewing 

Taking action at home

Most children stop thumb sucking between the ages of two and four as they become more active. If thumb sucking continues past the age of four, parents should take action to avoid extensive orthodontic intervention later. Occasional sucking, such as only while falling asleep, is less concerning than habitual aggressive sucking throughout the day. 

It is best to take a positive approach when helping your child break this habit because criticism and negativity may make thumb sucking worse. Speak kindly to your child about why it is important to stop sucking and tell them you will help them break their habit. A bandage on the finger can be helpful because the texture is unpleasant. You can also  purchase a product called Mavala Stop to paint on the thumbnail. The bad taste discourages sucking. Some kids find sticker charts encouraging as well. If your child mostly sucks at night, you can try putting a sock on their hand when you tuck them in for bed.

How an orthodontist can help

If at-home tips don’t help, your friendly San Tan Valley orthodontist can assist your child. Special orthodontic devices called habit appliances can be installed in your child’s mouth to remind them not to suck. Once your child breaks their habit, the appliance is easily removed by the orthodontic team. 

At Peterson Family Orthodontics, Dr. Peterson can assess your child and see if any habits of theirs are causing orthodontic problems. Not all children who suck their thumbs end up needing orthodontic treatment, but it never hurts to have a free consultation done. Call us today to schedule your appointment!

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