It is not uncommon for dentists to receive inquiries from concerned parents about their child’s thumb-sucking. Most children who suck on their thumb generally do so because it is soothing. Thumb-sucking is a common habit among children, but if done consistently can be harmful to their teeth and overall oral health.

Asante Dental dentists in New Westminster and Vancouver warn that thumbsucking especially after eruption of permanent teeth can cause problems in the mouth. The older a child gets, the more difficult breaking this habit can be. And the longer the habit continues, the more damage it can cause. 

Encouraging your child to stop sucking on a finger or thumb may be all you need to do to help your child quit the habit during the day. If parents wait until the child outgrows it and the child cuts the habit much later in life, an orthodontist may be necessary to mitigate the problems.

Long-term effects of thumb-sucking 

Thumb-sucking can subconsciously quell boredom, tiredness, sickness, or stress. Consistent thumb-sucking especially after adult teeth have erupted can have numerous negative effects on the teeth and mouth because of the repetitive pressure the thumb and sucking places on the teeth, jawbone, and roof of the mouth. 

It may cause any of the following:

  • Excessive overbite, where the front teeth protrude out from the jaw and mouth
  • Malocclusion bite issues, where the bottom teeth are tipping inward toward the back of the mouth or where the top and bottom teeth don’t meet when the mouth is closed
  • Alters the shape of the jaw, which can also harm the alignment and sensitivity of the roof of the mouth and/or cause a speech impediment
  • Palatal narrowing, which occurs when the roof of the mouth doesn’t grow to full size due to thumb sucking
  • Improper tooth alignment and eruption of the teeth
  • Modified swallowing action of the tongue and altered breathing
  • Calluses on the fingers or thumb

Parents must help their children break the habit of thumb-sucking by age 5 or 6 before the eruption of adult teeth. Parents can start by giving constant positive reinforcement and love. Because nighttime habits are more difficult to correct, it is important to discuss your concerns with an Asante Dental dentist in New Westminster. Although thumb-sucking can soothe and provides calmness to a child, it still can negatively impact your child’s oral development if it is not stopped before adult teeth erupt.