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The Effects of Thumbsucking


Child sucking thumb.Babies are born with the instinct to suck, this is important for feeding, and it brings them considerable comfort to do so. Besides eating, babies use their mouths for a lot of exploratory information gathering, they inherently bring everything to their mouths, and many parents are happy to let them suck on their fingers. Allowing your baby to suck on their thumbs is ok, but the habit should be broken in their toddler years and definitely before permanent teeth come in. Our team at Puget Sound Pediatric Dentistry can review your child’s current teeth positioning and discuss the importance of not allowing long term thumbsucking.

Babies and young children find thumbsucking to be very soothing, and a great help during stressful times such as going to bed or when they are feeling sleepy or grumpy. We want your child to be able to self-soothe, it is important in their development. What we don’t want is for your child to adjust the positioning, or prevent correct positioning of their permanent teeth. Children who continue to suck their thumb past the age of five can have some lasting effects.

Effects of Long Term Thumb Sucking


A child who continues to suck their thumb after the age of five can have some serious oral effects that will require early and more intensive orthodontic intervention. Effects may include:

•  Changes in Teeth Alignment: Having your thumb in your mouth and sucking can cause changes in your teeth alignment. The upper front teeth can be pushed causing an overbite or underbite to form. This can be exaggerated due to the simultaneous growth of the plates in your upper and lower jaw.
•  The Formation of a Lisp: Some children can develop a lisp from the changes that the child is causing through thumbsucking.
•  Roof Sensitivity: Children can increase sensitivity in the roof of their mouth due to causing changes or alterations in their mouth through thumbsucking.


How to Stop My Child From Sucking their Thumb


We do not advise or promote harsh or insensitive options for stopping a child from sucking their thumb. Children take great comfort from sucking their thumb, and we would never advise a parent to harshly take that comfort away. Parents have time to put a gentle and thoughtful plan for action. Parents can:

•  Praise or Reward: Praise your child for finding a new way to soothe themselves without sucking their thumb, ie. I am so proud of you for falling asleep without sucking your thumb. Alternatively, a parent may offer a child a sticker if they can go to bed without sucking their thumb, maybe after so many stickers they can get a larger reward.
•  Explain: If your child is old enough to reason with, you can tell them the importance of growing their permanent teeth, and how we want to take care of them even before they come in, part of taking care of them is not to suck our thumb.
•  Show Compassion: If they fail today, try again tomorrow. One day of thumbsucking is not going to cause problems, it is continual thumbsucking that will, so if they fail today, just start over.


We Look Forward To Meeting You



Our front office staff is happy to discuss our services with you. Our dentists are here to serve your children and teens. For more information, contact one of our multiple Seattle area offices.



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