How Does Thumb Sucking Affect My Child’s Teeth? 

While thumb sucking isn’t a problem before your child’s permanent teeth come in, this habit negatively impacts their oral health as they get older. A Shingle Springs family dentist confirms that thumb sucking can cause long-lasting side effects if it persists past age four.

A sleeping little girl with a thumb sucking habit needing to see a Shingle Springs family dentist

What Are the Possible Side Effects of Thumb Sucking?

Overbite

The repetitive pressure placed by your child’s thumb on their teeth, the roof of their mouth, and jawbone will eventually lead to a malocclusion, called an overbite. An overbite occurs when your child’s top teeth extend far beyond their bottom front teeth and protrude out from their jaw and mouth. If left untreated, this condition can change the child’s smile and face shape.

People with extreme overbites may require extensive orthodontic treatment to address the issue. In some cases, they may need to use alternative orthodontic appliances to prepare their teeth for the proper placement of traditional braces.

Open Bite

Since thumb sucking strains the alignment of teeth, it can potentially lead to the development of an open bite. This type of dental malocclusion occurs when your child’s top and bottom front teeth don’t touch as both are directed outward even when their mouth is closed. Besides requiring orthodontic correction down the road, an open bite may also complicate and worsen other misalignments.

Skin Issues

The skin constantly exposed to the mouth’s moisture can become vulnerable to other injuries. If your child’s thumb sucking habit persists for years, they may experience skin problems on their preferred thumb.

For instance, the skin may show signs of cracking or bleeding, which increases the risk of infection. In some cases, the skin on their thumb may also appear calloused. Additionally, the pressure and moisture of thumb sucking may also warp the thumbnail and cause peeling or ingrowth.

To prevent skin problems related to thumb sucking, your family dentist may advise you to bandage the affected thumb. It’s important to note that aversion strategies such as dipping the thumb in an unpleasant tasting substance will lead to high frustration levels. What’s more, they don’t produce lasting results.

Speech Issues

Since thumb sucking negatively impacts the development of your child’s teeth, palate, and jaw, it can also cause problems with how they speak. Speech impediments such as lisping and the inability to pronounce hard consonant sounds such as “D” and “T” may result from the habit.

In most cases, children with speech impediments experience high levels of anger, frustration, helplessness, and feelings of isolation because of their inability to communicate effectively. Contrary to what some people believe, high-quality speech therapy isn’t enough to address these impediments fully. Since the shape of your child’s teeth in relation to their tongue is partially causing the deformed sounds, solving this issue requires correct dental care.

Social Issues

Besides seriously affecting your child’s dental development, thumb sucking can also lead to social issues. Since thumb sucking is a subconscious response to boredom or stress for many children, kids who suck their thumbs in public without even thinking may quickly become targets of bullying. If this habit has caused your child to become a victim of bullying, they will require your support and instruction to overcome it within their appropriate developmental stage.

A little girl giving a thumbs up sign before receiving treatment from a Shingle Springs Family Dentist

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