Children go through phases where they feel safe and comfortable while doing certain habits, such as sucking on their thumb or a pacifier.
During the early years and usually lasting up until about four years old, it’s completely normal for a child to want to suck on or chew stuff.
However, fast forwards to the age of five. At this time, thumb sucking or other habits involving the mouth can alter the growth of the jaws and cause misalignments and bite issues.
The issues caused will require orthodontic help to fix, and it will be costly.
At iSmile Orthodontics, we recommended helping your child overcome their unhealthy dental habits, before it impacts their oral health.
How thumb sucking impacts a child’s dental health
Children who continue to actively sucking on their thumb past four are at higher risk of developing long-lasting misalignments of the teeth and impacts to jaw growth.
Active thumb sucking places repetitive pressure on the teeth, roof of the mouth jaw, which in effect alters how they grow.
Orthodontic issues caused by thumb sucking
- Overbite – Upper jaw overlaps the lower jaw.
- Open bite – Front top and bottom teeth do not connect when the mouth is closed.
- Front lower teeth dip inwards.
- Speech impediment – Since thumb sucking alters the growth of the teeth and jaw, it changes speech development. It may cause lips, and cause speech issues making it difficult to pronounce certain letters.
If you want to help avoid the risk of these orthodontic or speech issues, it’s important to help your child to stop this unhealthy habit as they begin reaching the age of four.
Ways to stop your child sucking their thumb or objects
Most children will naturally stop sucking their thumb between the ages of two to four years old.
It’s important to give your child the chance to naturally stop, however if they appear to continue the habit heading towards four or after four, you will need to intervene.
Great options to help your child stop, include:
- Encouragement – Show encouragement as your child tries to listen to you and stop. Things like hugs can be a great encouragement.
- Reminders – Place a bandage or glove over your child’s hand or finger to act as a reminder that they have to stop sucking their thumb.
- Distractions – When your child goes to suck on their thumb, try to entertain them to distract them away from doing it.
- Rewards – Rewarding your child with a special outing or toy are great ways to show progress and stop them from sucking their thumb for a period of time. Try beginning with one day, and making it all the way up to 30 days.
If it appears your child has stopped sucking on their thumb, please do not assume it is gone as children can easily drift back into habits. Make sure you continue your at-home treatments to deter thumb sucking even long after it’s gone.
What if I cannot stop my child, where should I seek help?
If you cannot seem to stop your child from sucking on their thumb, then it’s important to see a professional.
By visiting an orthodontist, dentist or another child health professional, you will be provided with great tips and ideas to help stop your child from their bad habits.
At iSmile Orthodontics in Melbourne our experienced team love helping young smiles grow up into healthy adult smiles. We believe child dental health is important and everything should be done to prevent orthodontic issues from occurring.
If you would like to find out more information on orthodontic issues and treatment, or would like to book in for an appointment, then kindly click here.