The Effects Of Thumb Sucking

Boy with curly, brown hair sucking his thumb

As your providers of pediatric dentistry and orthodontics in and around Chicago and Glenview, we at Yummy Dental & Orthodontics for Kids have made it our goal to help children achieve their healthiest smile possible. Our pediatric dentist and dental team don’t only accomplish this through our exceptional orthodontic and dentistry treatments – we’re glad to help even when it just comes to simply giving out advice for maintaining optimal oral health. To help your child get out on the path to a lifetime of healthy smiles, it’s important that you both promote healthy oral habits and keep your child from engaging in harmful ones. One of these harmful oral habits that many young children engage in is thumb sucking, a problematic habit that should be stopped as soon as possible.

Why Is Thumb Sucking Problematic?

While thumb (or finger) sucking is completely normal for babies and toddlers, this is a habit that can cause bite problems for a child if it’s continued past the age of about three or four. This constant pressure that the thumb (or another finger) keeps exerting on the teeth and mouth can interfere with the normal, healthy tooth eruption and jaw growth. For many children who continue this bad habit, it can lead to an orthodontic problem known as an open bite.

What Is an Open Bite?

For a patient with a proper bite, the upper front teeth will slightly overlap the lower front teeth when the mouth is completely closed. However, with an open bite, the teeth won’t overlap at all; in many cases, there’s an open space large enough so that his or her tongue can fit through. This can be problematic for a child for many reasons, including the following:

  • An open bite will make a child’s teeth look less aesthetically pleasing, potentially leading to self-esteem issues.
  • It will also make eating more difficult. Even the basic task of keeping food or liquid in the mouth when swallowing can be troublesome.
  • With an open bite, chewing can sometimes cause pain.
  • The back teeth are much more likely to wear down faster due to the added pressure.
  • An open bite can cause speech problems as well.

Ways to Stop Your Child’s Thumb Sucking

Thankfully, there are things that you can do to eliminate this harmful habit. Some of our best suggestions for getting your child to stop sucking his or her thumb include the following:

  • Praise your child and even offer a reward for not engaging in thumb sucking. This reward can be anything that you think your child might enjoy – a game, a toy, a treat, etc. Just make sure not to punish your child for thumb-sucking; be positive instead!
  • If you can determine when your child is most likely to start thumb sucking, you can try to distract him or her during these times. Also, if certain events or activities are likely to cause this harmful habit, you may want to avoid them.
  • Be open and honest with your child and explain why thumb sucking is bad and what will happen if this habit continues.
  • Cover up your child’s thumb with a band-aid or something similar to act as a reminder for your child not to suck his or her thumb.
  • If none of these tips seem to be working for your child, don’t hesitate to come visit your Chicago kids dentist for help. As your home for pediatric dentistry, we offer thumb and finger appliances to help break this habit.

Contact Your Chicago and Glenview Pediatric Dentist and Orthodontist!

If you have any questions about thumb sucking, our thumb and finger appliances, or any of our dentistry services, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We at Yummy Dental & Orthodontics for Kids are glad to help you in any way that we can! If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment with your kid's dentist or orthodontist at our Chicago office or our Glenview office, we encourage you to fill out our appointment request form. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!