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Thumb Sucking

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Babies, infants, and young children often suck thumbs or fingers, and it is a natural habit that can be very comforting, and which can help a young child self-soothe or go to sleep. Most children quit the habit on their own by age four.

Usually, thumb or finger sucking isn’t a concern until a child’s permanent teeth are ready to erupt. If a child is still sucking their thumb at this stage, it can begin to affect the development of their upper palate (the roof of their mouth), and this can impact how their teeth align.

When a child sucks their thumb, it gradually elongates the upper jaw, so the front portion of the jaw and the front teeth are pulled outward. As the jaw elongates, it can become narrower, so their teeth do not occlude or bite together with the lower teeth correctly.

The front teeth will bite too far forward of the lower teeth so they might not meet together at all. The upper back teeth will bite inside to lower back teeth because the upper jaw is narrower. Also, thumb or finger sucking can cause problems with overcrowding as the narrower jaw is less able to accommodate their permanent teeth as they come through.

If your child does suck their thumb or finger, we can monitor how it is affecting their oral health and can determine if or when treatment is necessary.

Usually, treatment isn’t needed unless a child continues to suck their thumb after age five.

The risk of your child developing dental problems also depends on how frequently they suck their thumb, and the intensity of the sucking action. Other habits that can affect the development of their upper jaw include mouth breathing and tongue thrusting. Using a pacifier can impact the development of a child’s permanent teeth.

Encouraging Your Child to Quit Harmful Oral Habits

Often a child suck a finger or thumb because they are stressed or anxious, and it can be helpful to identify potential triggers.

Once you identify the real reason why they suck a thumb, you can provide them with comfort in other ways, such as reassuring or hugging them or giving them their favorite stuffed animal or blanket to cuddle.

Another method that can be helpful is to use positive reinforcement by praising your child when they manage not to suck their thumb or giving them small rewards. When your child does suck their thumb, remind them gently without criticizing them.

How We Can Help

Sometimes, getting a child to stop can be as simple as Dr. Tracy or Dr. Igor having a gentle discussion with them. It can be more effective for a child to have an informal chat with the dentist to discover why it’s important to quit this habit rather than talking with their parents.

Our Brooklyn pediatric dentists can explain the need to quit very clearly, using words that are easy for them to understand and in a way that doesn’t make them feel uncomfortable or different from other kids.

Dental Appliances to Stop Thumb Sucking and Tongue Thrusting

When a child is unable to break a thumb sucking or tongue thrusting habit on their own, we can supply custom appliances to help them. These are fixed appliances that physically prevent the child from sucking their thumb or thrusting their tongue by making the habit less comfortable.

These appliances can be very successful, and especially when the child already wants to quit their habit but just needs a little extra help.

In our pediatric dentistry center in Brooklyn we offer the latest habit correction appliances and palatal expanders which can help guide jaw growth. Come visit our dental center for kids and teens and meet Dr. Khabensky DDS and Dr. Kim DDS. Our doctors provide personalized and comprehensive care and use natural techniques and organic measures whenever possible.

This page was published on Oct 7, 2020, modified on Nov 19, 2020 by Pediatric Dentistry Center

Pediatric Dentistry Center
2148 Ocean Ave, Ste 401A
Brooklyn, NY 11229

The information on this website is to provide a general pediatric dentistry information. In no way does any of the information provided reflect a definitive treatment advice. It is important to consult a best in class pediatric dentist in Brooklyn regarding ANY questions or issues. A thorough dental evaluation should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call your local kids dentist or pediatric dentist Dr. Igor Khabensky DDS or Dr. Tracy Kim, to schedule a consultation.
Pediatric Dentistry Center Material published on the website is for general purpose only. Symptoms and conditions my sound similar but different in nature. In case of dental emergency, pain, or discomfort, we advise booking an appointment with our pediatric dentists Dr. Khabensky DDS and Dr. Kim. Useful Information
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