Can Thumb Sucking Impact Your Child’s Dental Development?

April 23, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. Remmers @ 12:43 pm
baby sucking their thumb

Within two hours of being born, about 90% of infants will develop a reflex of sucking their thumbs or fingers. This instinct is so natural that some even start before they’ve left the womb! As adorable as this habit is, it may negatively affect your child’s oral development if it continues for too long. So, when should your little one stop sucking their thumb, and how can you help them? Read on as a Louisville children’s dentist explains what you need to know about thumb sucking and your baby’s growing smile.

How Much Thumb Sucking Is Considered “Normal”?

Thumb sucking is perfectly natural. Some experts believe that it’s used as a form of self-comfort. The good news is that for the first few years of life, thumb sucking is unlikely to impact dental development. Most kids will actually grow out of this habit between the ages of two and four.

After age four, crucial parts of the mouth and jaw begin developing. If your little one is still sucking their thumb at age five or six, serious oral complications may occur in the future.

How Thumb Sucking Could Affect Oral Development

Past a certain age, the prolonged pressure created by thumb sucking could contribute to problems in how a child’s mouth forms, including:

  • Bite alignments issues like crossbite or overbite
  • Crooked baby teeth, which may prevent the adult teeth from erupting correctly
  • Changes to the shape of the roof and floor of the mouth

If these developmental problems occur as a result of prolonged thumb sucking, your son or daughter might require orthodontic treatment or even surgery. That’s why, if your little one sucks their thumb past age four, you may need to proactively try to help them stop.  

Tips to Help Your Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb

Fortunately, there are several proven ways to help your child kick this harmful habit, such as:

  • Recognizing and addressing triggers – Kids often suck their thumb due to anxiety or frustration. Find out what’s causing these negative emotions and work to alleviate it.
  • Distracting them – Whenever you notice your little one sucking their thumb, have them do something else with their hands instead, like drawing or playing with a toy.
  • Talking to a children’s dentist – Children’s dentists have the expertise necessary to treat unhealthy habits like thumb sucking as a child is growing. They’ll be able to work with you to find a solution that will get your son or daughter to break this habit.

Although your baby’s thumb sucking might look cute now, you shouldn’t let it cause problems for their smile down the road. Keep their dental development on track by stopping this habit by the time they’re five years old. Check in with your children’s dentist to find out the best way to keep your little one’s smile healthy!

About the Author

As a man with five grown children and 14 grandchildren, Dr. Kenneth Remmers understands the importance of making sure that young smiles grow in a healthy way. His career in dentistry spans more than 50 years so far, and he’s happy to treat patients of all ages. He can educate you on how to keep your child’s smile bright and healthy as they grow up. If you’re concerned about your child’s thumb sucking, contact Remmers Dental Group at (502) 495-3443.

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