Young children develop many habits to calm themselves, and one of those habits is thumb sucking. In fact, infants even suck their thumb in the womb. You may have caught your baby with their thumb in his or her mouth during a sonogram. If your baby is sucking his or her thumb before birth it seems as if it must be a natural thing, right? Many parents fret when they have a thumb sucker but do you really need to? After all, should you fear nature’s own pacifier?
The Truth about Thumb Sucking
Sometimes parents are actually relieved when their child sucks their thumb because the child can calm themselves and doesn’t need to constantly depend upon the parent for comfort. Other times parents are worried if their child sucks their thumb because they are afraid it will play havoc with their teeth. What is the truth about thumb sucking? Thumb sucking during infancy is not really that big of an issue. If your child does not yet have permanent teeth, thumb sucking is a safe and easy way for them to self-sooth. However, if your child is still sucking their thumb when their permanent teeth are beginning to erupt then thumb sucking becomes a serious issue. As a general rule, if your child is still sucking at the age of six it can play havoc with their teeth in the way of:
- Buck Teeth
- Malocclusions such as overbite, underbite, crowding, and crossbite
- Structural damage to the roof of the mouth
- Lisp or other speech impairment
When to Worry
If your child does not give up thumb sucking on their own by the age of six you should start to worry:
Age: Six is the average age most children begin getting their permanent teeth. At this point, if your child is still sucking his or her thumb, the issue needs to be addressed. The longer your child continues to suck their thumb with permanent teeth, the more likely it will result in damage.
Intensity: The intensity in both the force and amount the child sucks also makes a difference. If the child sucks loosely and lightly only on occasion, such as before bed, there is less likely to be damage. But if your child is an intense sucker, if they suck hard for long periods of time at an age that their teeth are erupting, it is likely there will be more extensive damage.
ABOUT YOUR GARLAND DENTIST:
Dr. Vi Mai and the caring staff at Mai Dentistry are dedicated to ensuring that our patients are proud of their beautiful, healthy smiles. With years of experience in general, cosmetic, and restorative dentistry, we can expertly diagnose and treat early dental trouble to preserve your natural tooth structure. To learn more, or to schedule your next appointment, call us today at (972) 530-0552.