Long-Term Effects of Thumb-Sucking and How to Help Your Child Stop

Long-Term Effects of Thumb-Sucking and How to Help Your Child Stop

Did you know that around 30% of pre-school aged children continue to suck their thumbs? Thumb-sucking is an inherent urge to suck on something, stemming from curious babies putting everything in their mouth. This predilection wanes after six-months, but may continue at bedtime or when self-soothing. Most children wean themselves from thumb-sucking by the time they are a toddler, though some older children may continue the habit during times of stress or anxiety which can have oral repercussions.

Talk to your child’s doctor if they persist in thumb-sucking after age five, as there could be an underlying issue or problem. While thumb-sucking is not necessarily a bad thing, it can wreak havoc with young teeth and oral health.

What are the long-term effects of thumb-sucking? Help your child move past this habit:

Intervention

Thumb-sucking can lead to ear infections, as well as issues with speech, dental formation, and callouses or blisters on their thumb. Any of these issues should be a sign that it is time to intervene and assist your child in ceasing this habit.

Long-Term Impacts

Over time, thumb-sucking pushes the teeth causing an overbite or underbite. This can also contribute to speech impediments, including a lisp due to the position of the jaw bone. Also, long-term sucking can alter the roof of the mouth making it far more sensitive, which could cause discomfort and pain later.

Parent Tips

The best strategy to help stop thumb-sucking varies depending on the child.  Here are some tips for parents to consider:

  • Have your child wear a pair of socks over their hands when they sleep or nap.
  • Use a chart to demonstrate progress and reward your child for abstaining from thumb-sucking or pacifiers.
  • Don’t admonish or embarrass your child regarding thumb sucking; instead, praise their successes and accomplishments.
  • You can also discuss a prescribed topical that can be used on your child’s thumb or pacifier; this medicine tastes bitter, which may deter the child from imbibing. Talk to your physician about these medications.

Pacifiers

Some children rely on pacifiers to comfort and soothe, which is just as detrimental as thumb-sucking. Lessen the appeal and allure of your child’s pacifier by poking holes in the rubber or snipping off the end.  Forget to bring the pacifier when taking trips or time away from home to also help get your child over the habit by the time you return.

Support

Talk to your child and show support rather than reprisal when they struggle with thumb-sucking. This habit could be emerging due to stress, pain, or feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. Make your child feel accepted and loved, and often they will move past thumb-sucking on their own. Emotional well-being is closely connected to physical wellness, including oral health.

Take your child to see his dentist every six months, especially if you are concerned about the oral repercussions of thumb-sucking.  Your provider will be able to offer other strategies and solutions. At Crossland Dental Associates, we would love to help.  Call our office in Mt Pleasant, SC today to set up an appointment.