Although thumbsucking and pacifier use are normal among young children, these practices can lead to long-term damage if not addressed. Find out why children suck on thumbs or pacifiers and when parents should intervene.
Why Do Children Suck on Their Thumbs or Pacifiers?
The main reason why children suck on thumbs or pacifiers is that it soothes and calms them, which is why they will often engage in these behaviors when they are feeling frustrated, upset, or unable to express their emotions. However, if children continue to suck on their thumb or ask for a pacifier once they have turned four years old, this may be cause for concern. It is best to wean your child off of a pacifier at a young age to prevent long-term damage.
Are Thumb Sucking and Pacifiers Bad for Your Child's Teeth?
Depending on how aggressively your child sucks on the thumb or pacifier, it can result in damage to the teeth. One of the most serious effects of thumbsucking is tooth misalignment, which can include open bite and overbite. Open bite occurs when the top and bottom front teeth all point outward and do not touch when the child's mouth is closed. On the other hand, overbite occurs when the top front teeth extend over the bottom teeth when the mouth is closed, rather than lining up normally. If the overbite is so severe that traditional braces cannot correct it, headgear may be necessary.
While most people realize that sucking on thumbs and pacifiers can damage the teeth, it can also result in other problems. Because thumb sucking affects the teeth and jaw, it can cause your child to lisp or develop other speech impediments. If this occurs, it is important to seek dental care immediately. Because some children's speech impediments are directly related to the shape of their teeth, speaking with a dental professional can be the most effective solution.
How Can You Help Your Child Break the Habit?
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that positive reinforcement is more powerful than punishment. You should offer praise when your child is not thumbsucking rather than punishing him or her for doing so. You can also reward children for not sucking their thumb, whether with a fun activity or a cute sticker.
If you are still having trouble getting your child to break the habit, do not hesitate to reach out for help. At Pediatric Dental Group, we are committed to providing children with the personalized care that they deserve and helping them grow out of their thumbsucking habit.