Is Thumb Sucking Bad for My Child's Teeth?
Thumb sucking has been a controversial topic for many years. While some parents think it’s harmless to let their kids suck on their thumb in an effort to sooth themselves, others think it causes harm to their teeth. Those who think this habit is harmful are right. If your child has already formed this habit, it’s important to know how to stop it.
Harmful Effects of Thumb Sucking
Some babies and toddlers suck on their thumb as a source of comfort. In some cases, these kids grow out of this habit on their own, but others continue to suck their thumb as they get older. As a parent, you should work on discouraging your child from sucking his or her thumb once they turn 3 years old. If they keep it up, this habit can cause problems with their bite and with their teeth. They can end up with crooked teeth or a misaligned bite that causes problems with chewing and talking and frequent trips to our kids' dentist.
Tips on Stopping the Thumb Sucking Habit
If your child sucks their thumb out of habit, here are some ways that you can discourage this behavior. Keep in mind that you should emphasize the positive when working on this and be patient with your child. Avoid scolding or punishing your child for sucking their thumb, or your efforts could backfire. Thumb sucking is typically linked to anxiety, so be calm when dealing with your child.
There are several things you can do to help encourage your child to stop sucking his or her thumb.
- Place limits on thumb sucking: Your child probably won’t give up this habit entirely at first, so it’s better to gently wean them off it. You can start by letting your child know that thumb sucking should only be done at bedtime or nap time in bed, not out in public or during the day. This will help your child slowly get used to not sucking their thumb all the time.
- Don’t use negative techniques: Don’t use products that make thumb sucking unpleasant by putting a bad taste in your child’s mouth. This is a harsh way to break the thumb sucking habit and it could make your child feel more anxious.
- Talk to your child about this behavior: Have discussions with your child about thumb sucking. You might find out more about what makes your child anxious enough to keep doing this behavior. You can also use this time to explain to your child that this behavior is not something that big kids do or point out that their favorite characters don’t do it. Aim to listen and be understanding when discussing this topic with your child.
- Don’t make demands: Don’t tell your child that thumb sucking isn’t allowed anymore. Instead, watch for times that your child isn’t doing it and give them praise for being a big kid.
If you’re worried about your child’s teeth or have other dental concerns, please contact us to schedule an appointment with our pediatric dentist. We’re happy to announce that we’re currently accepting new patients!