What Are the Side Effects of Thumbsucking?

It’s perfectly natural for children to suck on their thumb when they are younger. It’s a way to comfort themselves or even signal that they’re feeling happy.

While it’s an adorable habit for a baby, it can become a problem if it goes on for too long.

The child’s jaws are still developing, so leaving them to suck on their thumb as they keep growing can lead to tooth alignment and jaw position issues which can only be corrected through orthodontic treatment.

Common Side Effects of Thumbsucking?

Most Alexandria pediatric dentists and pediatricians recommend that children stop sucking their thumbs when they are around 2-4 years old, depending on their development. Note that the same applies to using a pacifier, which can create the same issues as thumb-sucking.

Common side effects of prolonged thumb-sucking can include:

  • Overbites - Children with overbites have a protruding upper jaw
  • Open bites - The upper and lower teeth don’t make contact when the mouth is closed
  • Speech impediments - Thumbsucking can lead to lisps, but developing jaw alignment issues can also cause some speech disorders
  • Physical changes - Sucking on their thumb for too long can change the way the child’s face develops, and even alter features such as the shape of their jaw

How to Stop Your Child from Sucking Their Thumb

If you need to prevent your child from sucking their thumb, simply yelling “NO” every time they do it won’t help.

Instead, you should try the following strategies:

  • Talk to your child - If they’re old enough, you explain what sucking their thumbs can do to their smile;
  • Ignore the behavior - Some children may suck their thumbs to get their parents' attention, especially if every time they do it you rush to stop them. Ignoring this habit might be a better strategy;
  • Find the triggers - Understand why your child is sucking their thumb. Is it when they’re stressed or angry? Is it when they’re happy? Once you find the trigger, you can offer them another way to deal with their emotions;
  • Use positive reinforcement - Encourage your child to stop sucking their thumb by offering them praise or a small treat when they’re not doing it. Make a note that they’re getting this treat for not sucking their thumb;
  • Give them little nudges - Even adults have a hard time letting go of their habits, so it’s natural for the child to slip up from time to time. When they do, gently remind them to stop, but don’t draw a lot of attention to the behavior.

How Are Thumbsucking Side Effects Corrected?

If your child has developed jaw or tooth alignment issues because of thumbsucking, you should see Robert Marzban, DDS, MDS for a consultation.

Based on an assessment of the child’s jaw and teeth, you can access the appropriate orthodontic treatment to correct these side effects.

Schedule an appointment at Kingstowne Dental Specialists today.

free first visit for kids under 15 months!