When Does Thumbsucking Become a Dental Concern?

When does your child’s thumbsucking habit go from a cute and easy soothing method to a dental health risk? As a parent, you may be curious to know when to start helping your child break this very common habit.

As a general rule, if your child is approaching kindergarten and still frequently sucks his or her thumb, you have a right to be concerned. If your child is under the age of 4 and their permanent teeth have yet to come in, the risk for dental complication is low in terms of teeth alignment. However, keep in mind that a child who sucks his thumb is frequently exposed to germs and bacteria throughout the day and this is a problem at any age.

How Can Thumbsucking Impact Your Child’s Smile

By the time your child turns 5, your dentist will likely become more concerned if they still have a strong habit of sucking their thumb. It is at this point that the habit can affect the palate as well as how the permanent teeth line up. You may notice that your child’s front teeth have started tipping towards the lip.

Dental problems associated with thumbsucking are directly related to the intensity of the action. For example, a child who loosely places his thumb against his teeth will likely not suffer the dental problems that a child who sucks aggressively does.

Understanding and Breaking the Habit

Babies are born with a natural rooting and sucking reflex, and it is very common for thumbsucking to begin as a soothing mechanism. Understanding why your child continues to suck his or her thumb beyond infancy can help you find successful ways to stop the habit. Try to figure out exactly when your child’s thumb goes in the mouth. Is it when they are tired, anxious, insecure or even bored? Next, help your child find another way to soothe or respond in these situations that doesn’t involve thumbsucking.

Let a Pediatric Dentist Help

Do not hesitate to ask your dentist for help in breaking the habit. Different methods work for different kids. Your dentist can even prescribe a bitter medication to coat the thumb or even fit the child with a special mouth guard to reduce thumbsucking. Although the process may be difficult, it can certainly save your child’s smile and save you costly orthodontic treatment.

At TruDent Clinics, we are proud to serve families with excellence in pediatric dentistry. We understand the unique oral challenges that thumbsucking can bring, and we are here to help protect your child’s smile! Contact us today.


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