AAO Ragan Orthodontics in Dallas, TX

Thumb Sucking and Orthodontics: What is the Correlation?

While thumb sucking is normal through infancy and toddlerhood, it can have a detrimental effect as permanent teeth start to erupt. Due to the undeniable connection between thumb sucking and orthodontics, we encourage you to learn more about how this seemingly innocent activity affects your child’s oral health and how to help them kick the habit.

Why Does Thumb Sucking Develop?

Thumb sucking is a natural way for infants and young children to soothe themselves. They may do it to help themselves fall asleep or to provide comfort in an unfamiliar situation.

How Does Thumb Sucking Affect Teeth?

The sucking action associated with this soothing habit can affect the alignment of the teeth as well as cause changes in the roof of the mouth. The teeth can be pushed outward by thumb sucking as well. Not all children who have this habit will have orthodontic problems; the intensity of thumb sucking correlates with the likelihood of oral issues developing. Many children simply rest the thumb in the mouth or suck gently, which typically does not cause tooth problems.

How Can I Help My Child Stop Sucking His or Her Thumb?

If your thumb sucker is still a baby, don’t fret. Many children naturally give the habit up between the ages of two and four, according to the American Dental Association. Most doctors recommend ignoring thumb sucking in a child age 4 or younger. There are a few indications that it’s time for thumb sucking to stop: if your child develops a callus on his or her thumb, if he or she asks you for help to stop and if he or she is experiencing dental or speech problems.

It may also be effective to give praise or a small reward for not thumb sucking for a specified period of time. Avoid punishing your child for thumb sucking; this can damage his or her self-esteem.

Options Regarding Orthodontics

If you’re concerned about your child’s thumb sucking, our team at Ragan Orthodontics can provide recommendations about next steps. During a consultation at one of our three offices in Dallas, any bite issues that may need orthodontic correction will be apparent. If braces are required, our orthodontist will work with you to develop a treatment plan for your child. A thumb guard or a thumb crib may be all that is required to help your child kick his or her habit. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to learn more.