A child who sucks their thumb is engaging in very normal activity, as sucking is a normal instinct for babies as they exit the womb. Some children continue to suck their thumbs or fingers or other items. While most children stop this behavior on their own, you may have concerns about your child's teeth. Here are some things you need to know about thumb sucking and your child's teeth.
What Issues Does Thumb Sucking Cause?
While many children can safely suck their thumbs without major issues, some children are at risk for problems with jaw alignment. This happens as children get older or when their permanent teeth begin to erupt. After prolonged thumb sucking, the child's teeth and jaw can be altered. Your child may eventually need orthodontics to correct the teeth and the bite.
If your child does not suck on their thumb continuously, you may not have a need to be concerned. However, if your child constantly has a thumb in their mouth, you may want to consider some strategies to help them kick the habit.
How Can You Help Stop Thumb Sucking?
First of all, do not approach the child as though they should be punished. This is a natural act for most children, so chastising it will not help the situation. Instead, try to help your child to develop some new habits. For example, talk with your child about only sucking the thumb at bedtime. You can also employ some distracting tools, such as a stress ball or fidget spinner. You can also use a reward system with a sticker chart. Have your child go so many days without sucking on the thumb, then allow the child to choose a reward. Eventually, your child will stop sucking their thumb.
When Should You Be Concerned?
There are some certain issues that you need to watch for that can be concerning. When you can actually see a change in the alignment of your child's teeth or if they begin to protrude from the mouth, you need to get your child to the dentist right away. You also need to be concerned if your child begins to have speech problems. Additionally, you may need some professional assistance if your child enters elementary school vigorously sucking the thumb with no end in sight. Thumb sucking can often be a relief for anxiety at this age, so it is ideal to get to the bottom of anything your child may be dealing with.
For more information about how thumb sucking can affect your child's teeth, contact a dentist.