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Thumb Sucking and Teeth

Every parent with a thumb-sucking child has these two thoughts at some point: "Aw, that's cute," and "Should I make her stop?"

Many children suck their thumbs and will grow out of it, but thumb-sucking can have negative long-term impacts on children's oral Thumb Suckinghealth, especially if they continue the habit for many years. Intense thumb-sucking can interfere with proper mouth development, teeth alignment and correct jaw positioning, among other issues. The American Dental Association says most children stop sucking their thumbs between ages 2 and 4, but intense thumb-suckers may affect the health of their primary teeth, which should prompt parents to consult a dentist for guidance.

Children who vigorously suck their thumbs or continue the habit as their permanent teeth are ready to come in may end up with teeth that have been moved out of place because of the sucking. This is likely fixable with braces, but bite misalignment might make it difficult to adequately clean teeth, strain the jaw or interfere with proper chewing.

Thumb sucking also has the potential to cause the child to develop a lisp, which may require speech therapy to improve. Additionally, children who regularly suck their thumbs may experience sensitivity on the roof of the mouth. Thumb sucking can also damage the roof of the mouth.

Preventing these oral issues is a matter of helping your child break a bad habit. It can be challenging, but positive reinforcement is crucial to getting children to stop sucking their thumbs. It's never helpful to scold your child for their thumb-sucking habit, because that may further compel them to resort to the comforting habit.

If you notice your child's thumb-sucking is affecting their oral health, visit your local pediatric dentist. You can call Hunting Hills Family Dentistry in Roanoke, VA, at 540-769-5020 to schedule a consultation.

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