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How does thumb sucking affect your child?

How does thumb sucking affect your child?

Is it normal for my child to suck his thumb? Is it bad for his teeth? How can I get him/her to stop sucking his/her thumb? In this article we will answer all your questions.

Don’t panic, thumb sucking is a common and physiological behavior in babies and young children. However, when this habit is maintained during childhood for longer than it should be, oral and dental problems can appear in adulthood.

Therefore, it is necessary to correct this bad habit in infants because it will be much more complicated to solve in adulthood.

1. Why do children suck their thumbs?

1.1 Main reasons for thumb sucking

2.Oral and dental effects of thumb sucking

2.1 Dental and/or skeletal alterations

2.2 Functional alterations

2.3 Aesthetic alterations

3. How to help your child stop thumb sucking

3.1 Positive reinforcement

3.2 Calendar method

3.3 Options to make it more difficult for children to put their thumbs in their mouths

3.4 Braces

4. Why correct the thumb sucking habit?

Why do children suck their thumbs?

All human beings are born with an instinctive sucking reflex, commonly known as thumb sucking. This reflex must be covered during the first years of life with breastfeeding or pacifier.

On the other hand, the sucking habit is often related to certain emotional disorders, such as insecurities or desires for attention.

Changes in children’s environment – such as the start of school or kindergarten and the arrival of a sibling in the family – can be difficult to cope with.

As a result, children seek comfort and relief by sucking their thumb.

Oral effects of thumb sucking

The oral effects that occur when a child sucks his or her thumb depend on the position, intensity, frequency and duration of the habit.

That is to say, if the frequency is low or our child abandons the habit early (before the age of 3) there may not be any type of alteration in his or her mouth.

If the opposite occurs, it can lead to a series of oral alterations.

The changes are related to the way your child rests his or her finger on the roof of the mouth or on the teeth. The effects of this support result in changes such as the following:

1. Dental and/or skeletal alterations.

On the one hand, there may be a change in the orientation of the upper incisors, leaning forward.

On the other hand, the lower incisors may lean backwards. This alteration gives rise to what is known as protrusion.

Open bite can also occur. Children sucking their thumbs block the eruption of the upper and lower incisors. Open bite is the result of a lack of contact between the teeth. They do not touch each other and there is a gap between them.

Another consequence can be cross-bite. This occurs when the thumb is introduced between the teeth and rests on the palate, exerting a double effect.

On the one hand, the finger favors the development of an ogival palate and, on the other hand, the tongue is forced into a low position. As it is not positioned on the palate, there is a narrowing of the palate and cross-bite can occur.

2. Functional alterations

Another common issues are functional alterations such as:

– Worsening of chewing. Children have problems to grind food well.

– Swallowing problems. The child alters the way he/she swallows, as he/she puts the tongue between the teeth.

– Inner lip suction. Due to the advanced position of the upper incisors, the child bites the lip or the cheeks.

– Speech disturbances. The most common is the appearance of a lisp, that is, pronouncing the “s” as a “c”.

– Mouth breathing. The child breathes through the mouth instead of through the nose, as a consequence of the narrowing of the palate and the low position of the tongue.

3. Aesthetic alterations

On many occasions, thumb sucking not only affects the mouth, but also the fingers themselves. As a consequence, these can be reddened, with short nails and flattened. And, in the worst cases, we can see calluses.

On the other hand, the appearance of the open bite can affect the smile, leading to self-esteem problems.

H2 How to help your child to stop thumb sucking

Thumb sucking is often difficult to stop before the expected age and lasts longer. This ultimately requires the placement of some orthopedic or orthodontic appliance in the mouth. (link: https://www.moonz.com/es/ortodoncia-infantil)

For this, the most popular orthodontic treatments are:

Positive reinforcement

This is a very effective alternative as long as the child is old enough to carry out this strategy. Parents should not punish children, since the more you insist that they stop doing it, the more they will do it.  Remember: it is more convenient to replace a bad habit with a good one.

Calendar method

In this calendar we can mark the times or parts of the day when the child has not sucked his thumb. A positive attitude is adopted and challenges are planned to congratulate and reward the child. This way of acting reinforces the child’s self-esteem and confidence to achieve it.

Options to make it difficult for children to put their fingers in their mouths

You can also resort to applying bad-tasting products to the fingers, sewing mittens to pajama sleeves, or even special gloves that prevent thumb sucking. H3. Orthopedic or orthodontic appliances

They should not be used in children under the age of 3. They can be fixed or removable, depending on the oral and dental alteration of the patient and the results to be achieved.

Why correct the habit of thumb sucking?

Thumb sucking is a very common habit in babies and young children, as it brings them security and calmness.

However, as we have already mentioned, this habit should be abandoned before the age of three.

If this harmful habit is prolonged over time, it can displace your child’s teeth and harm the occlusal development of the child. 

The appearance of maxillofacial, dental and language problems are related to the frequency, intensity and duration of the habit. Therefore, it is necessary to solve bad practices as soon as possible so that they do not lead to more serious problems.

Have you resolved your doubts about the negative effects of thumb sucking? Don’t worry if not.

The dental expert is the one who will look for the best for your child and will propose the best solutions after a personalized diagnosis. 

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