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Thumb Sucking and Dental Care

All babies have the natural instinct to suck their thumbs. It starts out as a comfort mechanism when young infants suck on their fingers, toys, or pacifiers to help soothe themselves and often to help them fall asleep. There is nothing wrong with this while the child is young. A general rule of thumb is that by the time the child’s permanent teeth start to come through, it’s a good time to start breaking the habit.

While children are young, their jaw bone and roof of their mouths are growing and can be changed by the sucking pressure. Usually between the ages of 2 and 4 is when children start to break the habit.

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What Does It Do?

Depending on how old the child is, what the child is sucking on, like a pacifier or finger, how hard they are sucking, and for how long can all be factors that determine the outcome of the thumb sucking, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).

When children excessively suck their thumbs, the upper teeth start to protrude out and the lower teeth protrude in to make room for the thumb to sit in the mouth which causes the teeth to form in an open bite. At the same time, the palate or “roof” of the mouth becomes abnormally arched from the pressure created while sucking.

What Should I Be Looking For?

Once adult teeth start to come in, try to help your child to stop sucking their thumb, finger, pacifier, etc. If you start to notice that your child’s front teeth are poking out instead of meeting end to end, consult your dentist for an opinion.