How does thumb sucking affect the teeth?

Along with their favourite blankets, teddy bears and nap time, thumb-sucking can be one of the most comforting activities of childhood.

Between 75% and 85% of infants suck their thumbs, so chances are there’s a thumb-sucker in your family. In most cases, this is nothing to worry about, but it’s still important to pay careful attention as this behaviour can affect your child’s oral health.

Most children stop thumb-sucking on their own between the ages of two and four, however, some children continue sucking beyond the preschool years. If your child is still thumb sucking when the permanent teeth start to appear – around the age of 6 – you may need to take steps to break the habit.

Extended sucking affects both the teeth and the shape of the face, and in 70% of children will lead to a need for orthodontic treatment in the future – we advise seeing our orthodontic team around the age of 7years old.

How can I help my child quit thumb sucking?

Follow these guidelines:

  • Always be positive. Instead of punishing your child for thumb sucking, give praise when it doesn’t happen.
  • Put a bandage on the thumb or a sock over the hand at night. Let your child know that this is not a punishment, just a way to help remember to avoid sucking.
  • Start a progress chart and let your son or daughter put a sticker up every day that he or she doesn’t suck a thumb. If your little one makes it through a week without sucking, he or she gets to choose a prize. When your child has filled up a whole month, reward him or her with something great – by then the habit should be over.
  • Making your child an active participant in treatment
  • If you notice your child sucking when anxious, work on alleviating the anxiety rather than focusing on the thumb sucking.
  • Take note of the times your child tends to suck (long car rides, while watching movies), and create diversions during these occasions.
  • Explain clearly what might happen to the child’s teeth if he or she keeps sucking a thumb.

Whatever your method, always remember that your child needs your support and understanding during the process of breaking the thumb-sucking habit.

If you have questions, please contact us to book an appointment with one of our children’s dentists at our London dental clinics and we will be happy to speak with you about the best way to care for your child’s developing teeth.

Want to know more about how we create healthy, happy and cavity-free smiles? Pop into the practice for a tour, or call us on 020 7078 0822 to arrange a consultation!

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