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Thumb Sucking Gets a Thumbs Down

Little girl with thumbs up and down

It’s perfectly normal for small children to suck their thumbs; it can even be endearing to see. However, we urge parents not to allow their children to indulge in this habit for too long.

Prolonged thumb-sucking can cause dental problems in the future. Some of these issues include tooth decay, tongue thrusting, early tooth loss, and lip sucking.

Tooth Decay and Early Tooth Loss

Many people think that tooth decay and early tooth loss aren’t significant in children because they don’t have their permanent teeth yet, but any family dentist will tell you that’s not the case. Baby teeth serve as placeholders for adult teeth to grow into. When they fall out or have to be removed too soon, it can cause crowded or crooked teeth, overbites, and uneven spacing, often resulting in the need for braces.

Tongue Thrusting and Lip Sucking

Long-term thumb-sucking habits can affect the way the tongue moves. Tongue thrusting is when the tongue moves forward excessively when talking or swallowing. Other symptoms include mouth breathing, messy eating, and speech impediments. If left untreated, tongue thrusting can cause tooth deformities due to the tongue pressing against the teeth over a long period of time. If you notice any symptoms in your child, make a pediatric dentist appointment to get the needed treatment.

Lip sucking is defined as habitually sucking the lower lip, holding it beneath the top front teeth. This can also lead to tooth loss and decay, as well as overbites.

How to Prevent Thumb-Sucking

Babies and toddlers suck their thumbs as a means of soothing themselves. It’s perfectly natural. However, between the ages of two and four years old, children should develop other coping mechanisms. Use these tips to gradually lessen the need to thumb-suck.

  • Restrict thumb-sucking time to at home, not in public.
  • Give praise when the child is not sucking their thumb.
  • Try to create more of a sense of self-awareness by asking your kid if they realize what they are doing.
  • Don’t insult the child. It will only cause more anxiety.

For more advice and information, talk to your family dentist and make an appointment. Don’t delay!

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