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How Does Thumb-Sucking Impacts Your Baby’s Teeth?
June 14, 2019  |  Kids's Dentistry

How Does Thumb-Sucking Impacts Your Baby’s Teeth?

If you have experienced parenting by now, you must have had the experience of dealing with the thumb-sucking habit. You have either tried hard to get your baby out of that practice or you have not! You must have dreaded the baby’s reactions and shrill wailing at the very thought of barring the infant from sucking his thumb.

Table Of Content:

Why do children indulge in Thumb-sucking?

Sucking the thumb is a child’s natural reflex. Children indulge into this practice simply due to a few things:

  • They feel secure and happy.

  • Thumb sucking keeps them engaged and helps them observe around and learn new things.

  • Thumb, fingers and pacifiers serve the purpose of a nipple and sucking it makes the baby feel contended.

This article actually aims at dealing with the concern of parents, especially mothers, when their kid is heavily into this habit of thumb-sucking. Let us have a glimpse of how this habit may affect your child’s teeth.

Effect of thumb-sucking on baby’s teeth:

Thumb-sucking in the early infant days is not much of a cause of worry. In fact these days, most parents are seen keeping their calm about the issue. But this same thing becomes a botheration for parents, when it continues in the growing years! After your child’s permanent teeth starts setting in, the ill habit of sucking may be responsible for the following:

  • Change the shape of the roof of your mouth.

  • Over-sucked thumbs tend to get sore. In between the pressure of the teeth and moisture of the tongue, the thumb skin tends to shrink down.

In a nutshell therefore, in the first two to four years, there’s nothing to worry about, even if thumb-sucking is your baby’s habitual practice. Seldom does thumb-sucking harm a child under the age of four. Post this age, it usually fades away. Problems start cropping in after this, especially if the kid already has a set of protruding upper gums and an inherent overbite! It is now when you need to start worrying about how to get the child out of this ill habit and need to consult the pediatric dentist for the same.

Ways to help your kid out of thumb-sucking

  • Keep hands busy - Whenever you notice that the child is about to push in his thumb or hals already started doing it, redirect the child into an activity that would keep both the hands busy. Remember, bored little thumbs tend to seek thumbs, nipple, pacifiers etc. Therefore, you only need to busy the bored child.

  • Try alternatives to sucking - Instead of prohibiting the child from doing something (as it would draw his attention and curiosity more towards it), try some alternatives like rocking, playing games, singing, etc. The earlier your baby learns that there are other ways to find comfort in addition to the breast, bottle, thumb, or pacifier, the more he will be inclined towards alternatives to oral gratification.

  • Satiate his/her sucking needs - Since sucking in the infant years is not an issue itself, allow the baby to suck to his/her heart’s content. A need that is filled is a need that goes away eventually. Therefore, breastfeed for as long as possible and allow the kid to suck your fingers too. Sucking satisfies the need for further sucking on things like pacifiers, nipples etc. In fact, studies confirmed that babies who get their sucking needs met hardly become habitual thumb-suckers.

You can some other tricks…

There are other tricks to divert your child’s attention from thumb-sucking to something else, such as:

  • Praise your child for not indulging in the act (sucking).

  • Children often do this while feeling insecure or needing some comfort. If you can focus on correcting the cause of anxiety, it really helps.

  • Your dentist can also help your child out of this habit by explaining what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop sucking.

In the entire discussion about thumb-sucking, when you are tending to opt for satiating the baby’s sucking needs, try to distinguish well between thumb and pacifiers in this regard. While your baby would go for the former, dentists always vote for the latter. The reasons are:

  • They are always available.

  • Their taste is familiar to the baby

  • They don’t get lost in the night !

  • And they don’t fall off on the floor either.

Thumb-sucking Vs. Pacifiers

So, be prepared that your baby is gonna fight hard to stick to his thumb. But, in case you have to allow sucking, try pushing in a pacifier. A pacifier has the following virtues, or rather, advantages over the baby’s thumb:

  • They can fall off, get lost or pulled out and removed to some remote place, if required.

  • The silicone pug is soft and cannot be rubbed hard against the upper palate inside the mouth.

  • The thumb on the other hand, is used like a crowbar on the upper teeth which affects its shape and alignment badly!

While thumb-sucking is not a complicated issue, its retention through the growing years and the struggle to erase it is at times a real cause of worry. When nothing seems to work, a parent has no other option but to try an adhesive bandage or tape on the thumb. Putting on a set of gloves while the baby dozes off to sleep or using hand mittens from the very infant days is a good way for parents to try their hands on.

Overall, the intensity of the sucking determines whether dental problems may result in future or not. If the baby is resting the thumb passively inside the mouth, he/she is less likely to have difficulty than those vigorously sucking their thumbs! In all probabilities, you need to wait for some years and then take steps in order to correct the issue.

You may also like to know: What Is The Effect of Biting your Nails.