Babies and young children often suck on their thumbs and other objects. It is a natural reflex and can give them a sense of security. But since the beginning of time, parents have worried that thumbsucking and using pacifiers could harm their child’s teeth. So, how can thumbsucking affect your child’s teeth?

When does thumbsucking become a problem?

For babies without any teeth, thumbsucking does not present much of a problem. Even after a few teeth come in, thumbsucking still isn’t a major issue necessarily, as those teeth are not permanent teeth. But when it comes to permanent teeth, thumbsucking can affect the position and crookedness of teeth or the palate (the roof of the mouth). So, the child’s age is a factor. Many children stop sucking their thumbs before the permanent front teeth erupt. It is important that before those teeth come in that the habit of thumbsucking is broken.

Additionally, how the child sucks their thumb or pacifier can affect whether dental issues arise. Children who vigorously suck on their thumb are more likely to have affected teeth versus children who more passively suck their thumb or just rest it in their mouths.

How do you stop your child from thumbsucking?

No doubt you’ve heard of many home remedies to thumb sucking. Depending on the age of the child, different methods may be effective.

  • Help your child replace thumbsucking with a new method of self-soothing, like hugging a favorite stuffed animal
  • Offer positive reinforcement for not thumbsucking
  • Have your dentist explain the potential consequences of thumbsucking to the child
  • Cover the thumb or thumbnail with a bitter substance (ask your dentist for recommendations)
  • Place a bandage on the thumb
  • Cover the hand with a sock at night to prevent the child from thumbsucking in his or her sleep

Thumbsucking is a difficult habit to break, especially in very young children, but if left unchecked it could lead to dental problems in the future. If you’re concerned that your child’s dependence on sucking their thumb or pacifier might be harming their teeth, talk to their dentist to find out potential issues and solutions appropriate to your child’s age and situation.

To keep your child’s teeth healthy, schedule their regular dental checkups with Weber, Mountford & Ruszkowski Family Dentistry.