girl sucking her thumb

Effects of Prolonged Thumb Sucking In Children

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Thumb sucking is one of your child’s normal reflexes. In fact, this reflex begins even before your child is born. It is a form of anxiety management that helps children relax and feel secure, and enables them to fall asleep easily and comfortably. Though harmless for young kids, thumb sucking will cause certain issues if it persists past 2-4 years.

This is the age at which your child begins shedding milk teeth for the growth of permanent dentition. A pediatric dentist has different solutions on how to stop thumb sucking, though very few parents think they need these solutions. This is primarily because they are unaware of the impact that prolonged thumb sucking has on various aspects of a child’s well being.

These effects include:

Dental Misalignment

Your child’s mouth will be held half open for an extended period when sucking their thumb. This will cause the exhaustion of their tendons and result in the pulling of the jawbone out of a normal position. At this stage, the child’s jaw bone is still developing. As such, a misalignment will cause the jaw to develop in the wrong position. This will result in an overbite or under bite and affect the alignment of the child’s permanent teeth.  Open bites, cross bites and buck teeth are also a consequence of dental misalignment.

Slanted Teeth

Thumb sucking will cause the outwards slanting of teeth in much the same way braces will move teeth into the desired position. The outward slanting of a child’s teeth is more than a cosmetic concern which will affect their self esteem. It will also affect your child’s oral function and contribute to a poor nutritional status. Also, it is hard for children to clean slanted teeth efficiently and this will contribute to the development of various dental health conditions.

 girl sucking thumb over white background.

Overcrowded Teeth

In some kids, the continued pursing of the lips during thumb sucking will cause the underdevelopment of their jaws. This means a small jaw for the development of a child’s permanent teeth and consequently overcrowding of the teeth. Though some degrees of overcrowding will be corrected using appliances to widen the jaw, tooth extraction is the unfortunate eventuality in a few cases.

Speech Issues

Prolonged thumb sucking will cause changes in the roof of your child’s mouth. This is because the habit will create considerable pressure on the mouth’s roof which contributes to the development of a groove. This groove will be the primary cause of a speech impediment in children even after the development of a proper speech pattern.

The above issues are not only expensive to treat but also take an extended period to efficiently correct. As such, their prevention is essential for your child’s dental and overall health. Offering rewards and positive reinforcement to your child when they refrain from thumb sucking help in getting rid of the habit, but it will only do so much.

There are different customized appliances that reduce the gratification your child will get from thumb sucking, giving them more reason to drop the habit within a few months.

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