When Does Thumb Sucking Become A Dental Problem? What Parents Should Know

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If you’re a parent and your child sucks their thumb regularly, you may be wondering when you should be concerned. At what age does thumb sucking become an issue, and how can it affect your child’s dental health in the future? In this guide from First Smiles Children’s Dentistry, we’ll discuss everything that you should know. 

Thumb Sucking Becomes A Dental Problem Around Age 5-6

Thumb sucking is extremely common. Research has found that somewhere around 70% to 90% of kids will suck their thumbs or fingers somewhat regularly during the first few years of life. Some kids may stop this behavior around the age of one, while others may continue until they're 2-4 years old.

Thumb sucking isn’t a dental problem until your child reaches the age of 5-6. This is the age when your child’s permanent teeth will usually start to erupt. At this time, most kids will stop thumb sucking, but some children may continue sucking their thumb.

When your child only has their baby teeth, thumb sucking is harmless. But as their jaws continue to grow and their adult teeth start to erupt, sucking their thumb can cause serious oral health issues and problems with their oral development.

Understanding How Thumb Sucking Harms Oral Development

When your child sucks their thumb, they're putting unnatural pressure on their jaws and their teeth, especially if they suck their thumb hard and for a long period of time. This is not such a big deal when they're young and only have baby teeth.

But as they grow, this pressure can cause changes in how their jaws develop, and how their teeth erupt. Children who suck their thumbs may have a higher risk of crooked teeth, bite problems, and a narrow palate.

In turn, this means that your child may experience future oral health issues, and may require complex and costly orthodontic care to correct the position of their jaws and teeth. This is why it’s important to break your child’s thumb sucking habit before they're about five years old.

Four Simple Tips For Dealing With Your Child’s Thumb Sucking Habit

If your child is still sucking their thumb regularly and you’re wondering what you can do about it, you have a few different options:

  1. Ignore it if they're young – Most kids stop sucking their thumb naturally between the ages of 2-4. If your child is under the age of five and still sucks their thumb, you can just ignore it. They may stop on their own.

  2. Start by limiting thumb sucking – If your child is older and still sucks their thumb, you may want to start by limiting the times when they suck their thumb. For example, you may only allow them to do it before naptime, or for 15 minutes before bed.

  3. Find alternative comfort methods – Thumb sucking may be a response to stress and anxiety and is a form of comfort.. If you can provide your child with other methods of comfort, they may suck their thumb less often like a stuffed animal or soft blanket.

  4. Cover their thumb at night – If your child tends to suck their thumb at night, putting a glove or mitten on their hand at night can help break this habit.

If you have concerns about your child’s thumb sucking habit, discuss with Dr. Ha at First Smiles Children’s Dentistry at Your Child’s Next Checkup.

At First Smiles Children’s Dentistry, Dr. Chris Ha is an experienced children’s dentist in Modesto. Whether your child is overdue for a six-month checkup or you’re worried about their thumb sucking habit, Dr. Ha and our team can provide you and your little one with the care and guidance you need. Contact us online or give us a call at (209) 343-3500 to schedule your child’s consultation today.

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