Effects of Thumb-Sucking on Teeth


Oral health remains a very significant aspect of the human health, as it is affected by many habits that either make or mar the dental set. One of these partially normal patterns is thumb-sucking, a practice that’s common to most children from birth until age four. If we say that almost all children suck their thumb around this age, what makes the habit dangerous? Some researchers have discovered that prolonged sucking of the thumb after the age of four or when the permanent teeth are coming out can result in very adverse effects on the teeth. While it’s good to want to compel your child to stop sucking, we think it’s advisable that you have a full understanding of these effects and help your child get the necessary attention from a quantified Logan, Utah dentist.

Decoding Thumb-Sucking

In the most literal sense, thumb-sucking implies sucking the thumb of the left or right finger. However, to be more descriptive, we’ll explain this action as an activity that many children turn to at a very tender age when they’re hungry, tired or bored. Do you marvel at how you see cute babies stick their thumb in their mouth and just stay faithful to it even against parental displeasures or warnings? Studies prove that a large number of babies engage in this practice and it takes some time and effort to reduce it or get them to stop it.

If you could speak the language of babies, you’ll understand that for them, this action brings some level of security and entertainment. But since you can’t explain the pleasure they seem to derive from it, you’ll need to accept their ideology the way it goes. For some children, having their thumb in their mouth is a way to say “I’m hungry” or “I need your attention.” What remains incomprehensible is how this activity exceeds the permissible period and extends into an unacceptable timeline. What do we mean? Some children in grade school keep up with this by placing their right or left thumb in their mouth and stroking their belly button with their right or left hand. Some even use other people’s body parts (like armpits) to complete the sucking process. Have you noticed that your kid who does this may even fall asleep while sucking?

Is Thumb-Sucking Limited to Only Kids?

You’re probably wondering why the emphasis is on kids. What about the adults? Well, yes, at some point, adults have come out to admit that they’ve struggled with this habit for a long time. Despite the teasing that comes from peers during the teenage age, you find that certain parents don’t just know how best to break this teeth-ruining habit. For some, completely stopping it comes easy through persistence and other treatment options. But for others, it just remains. And you know the funny thing? The side effects to both the teeth and mouth are disastrous and demoralizing.

What Makes Thumb-Sucking Wrong?

Now, we’re going to take you through the “big deals” about thumb-sucking. Overall, it’s a practice common to children; so, we’ll spend more time breaking down the effects on kids and why it’s unhealthy.

In itself, nothing is wrong with thumb-sucking because it’s considered a reflex action that many babies start while still in the womb. Some children continue it till they are 2; others stop around the age of 5, but some take it on till they clock six years and above. As from 5-6 years old, the permanent teeth begin to form, and a persistent thumb-sucking becomes unhealthy for the jaw, teeth, mouth, and face. Not only does it result in impaired dentition, but also it affects speech and sometimes even results in speech difficulty or curved face shape. Do you also know that it could lead to jaw surgery? If you’ve always thought of thumb-sucking as “ordinary” and said “the kid will get over it in time,” it’s about time you took your child’s dental health more seriously.

How Much Finger-Sucking is Too Much?

We can’t overemphasize the need to disallow your child from continuing this habit after the age of 3 or 4. Some kids respond to correction as early as two years old, but we suggest that you help your child break the habit before he clocks five. Why? Let’s describe the effects to you in the next heading and help you get a good understanding of what we’re actually talking about.

Effects of Thumb-Sucking on Teeth

Let’s start by saying that there’s the gentle sucking (placing the thumb in the mouth) and the aggressive or violent sucking (sucking on the thumb with much effort). At the age of five, the permanent teeth begin to erupt in most children. Sometimes, children stop naturally. But at other times, parental intervention or even dental attention is required. Below are the effects of finger sucking on the teeth:

  • Thumb-sucking can cause slanted teeth, a situation that results from the teeth being bent inward (or outward) and not being properly aligned with the upper or lower sets.
  • A permanent overbite or underbite can result from a persistent opening of the mouth since the mouth isn’t designed to stay open for an extended period. This behavior can cause the jaw to move out of position permanently, altogether affecting the shape of the mouth.
  • The primary teeth can also be prevented from erupting fully, leading to poorly formed dentition.
  • An extended period of sucking may lead to malocclusion. This kind of misalignment or tooth movement affects both the lower and upper incisors and may be difficult to correct after the age of 5.
  • Conscious and vigorous sucking of the thumb could require special dental attention or even jaw surgery.

Based on these effects, we can guess that you’re now more interested in the possible ways to help your child stop thumb-sucking early enough. The truth is, children hate to feel pressured to give up habits. And when they feel this way, they are more prone to feel discouraged when they experience delays with breaking the habits. As a parent, therefore, what are the most efficient ways to help your child stop sucking their finger?

How to Stop Thumb-Sucking

  • One of the easiest ways is to provide the attention that your child needs. For most children, this activity helps them to escape hunger or boredom. So, if you can feed them at the right time or avail yourself always to entertain them, there’s every chance that the habit will die early.
  • Another very potent way to curb thumb-sucking is to include a distraction that can get him off the sucking. Playing a song or offering him a toy can help to keep his hands busy and his mind distracted from the need to suck his thumb.
  • Explaining the long-term effects of sucking to your child can in a way reduce how often she sucks. When your child understands that her dentition won’t be nicely arranged if she keeps sucking and that her friends may mock her when she goes to school, she’ll be more willing to stop the habit completely.
  • Try gentle encouragement that doesn’t involve yelling, scolding or spanking. When you threaten your child with punishment because she sucks her thumb, she somehow becomes frightened and seeks solace in increased sucking. Won’t your aim be defeated this way? Why not turn to gentle and indirect corrections that don’t have to sound harsh and mean?
  • Occasionally, reinforce your child’s efforts at stopping this habit to make him know that he’s improving and that you’re pleased with his progress.
  • Ask yourself questions about the likely causes of stress or anxiety for your child. When you can answer these questions, you’ll be properly placed to help your child replace this behavior with better ones.
  • Try methods that involve placing things like bandages or socks over the thumb. With a hindrance in place, your child is more likely to part with the habit sooner than you imagine.
  • In some cases, you could apply bitter medication to your child’s thumb. Some parents make use of Aloe Vera (and that’s enough to do the magic).
  • Most important is your need to visit your dentist. Logan Dentistry can always provide the required information and treatment to help your child stop thumb-sucking. When you visit a dental center, you could get a dental appliance that is placed on the roof of the mouth to stop the thumb-sucking culture.

More on Getting Help from a Logan, Utah Dentist

We consider it very important that you get gentle care to address the dental issues that may arise in your child due to thumb-sucking. With the help of a professional and experienced dental expert, you can get information that’ll influence your decisions positively and help your child have a better and nicer smile. What are other benefits of a dentist?

  • As a parent sometimes, you could get overwhelmed with your six-year-old or teenage child who just won’t stop sucking. Rather than just trying on your own, why not visit a dentist who can provide you with needful information and the best approach to helping your child?
  • With the help of a dentist, you’ll know when it’s best to introduce an orthodontic appliance that’ll stop your child from sucking. There’s the chance that the passive methods may not produce the immediate results that you seek. But when you involve a dentist who’s familiar with children, he’ll guide you on how best to utilize this deterrent device to achieve success.

Overall, the aim of sharing the effects of thumb-sucking on teeth is to help parents make sound decisions early enough about their children’s health. If you can correct this behavior at a young age, why wait till your child is all grown up and then requires a jaw surgery or cannot produce speech impressively?

At our Logan dental clinic, we look out for children who are suffering from dental problems as a result of different issues including thumb-sucking. We believe that the onus lies on parents to help their children while they’re still very young. But when things are beyond your control, it’s advisable that you contact us immediately to intervene and help restore your child’s oral health to its original design. Why not talk to us right now? We’ve got all the answers you need!