Why And When Does Thumb Sucking Require Monitoring and Intervention?

Thumb Sucking

Parents share a common trait: being concerned with their child’s well-being. When first-time parents know they are expecting, a sense of care starts to develop. One of these concerns arises when a child is thumb sucking. There is extensive literature about the pros and cons of thumb sucking. This article starts educating parents on the reasons for thumb sucking and listing some of the problems related to this habit. Then we will emphasize how thumb sucking can affect a kid’s teeth? Finally, we will share some recommendations to help your little kid refrain from thumb sucking.


Why Do Kids Suck Their Thumbs?

Kids and especially babies’ self soothe by sucking on their thumbs. Also, sucking on their thumb provides a child with a sense of security and serenity. As a result, a child might get relaxed to the point that thumb sucking serves as a method to fall asleep.

Going a little further, answering this question, we need to know that thumb sucking is generally harmless. However, according to research, its persistency might lead to dental, dermatological, and psychological problems.   

Clinical evidence has proven that thumb sucking-related problems do not occur until after four years, and therefore, treatment is rarely necessary before then. Consequently, we strongly advise parents to monitor.

If intervention is required, the recommendation is for parents to cease attention to the kid for a month. As part of the treatment, parents need to combine monitoring with charts, incentives when a kid stops thumb sucking, and prompts to help recap when forgetting. 

However, why is it so important to stop thumb sucking? To explain this, we need to move a little backward. Thumb sucking can start while a baby is in the womb. A mother’s stressful situation, like sadness or anger during pregnancy, can be a triggering factor for a baby to thumb suck. Additionally, to reinforce this fact, according to Raising Children, a site sponsored by the Australian Government, children suck their thumbs when they are tired and hungry, but also when stressed.

The causes for thumb sucking vary. However, determining a cause is an essential element to consider when a kid repeatedly and prolongedly sucks its thumb, as the infant might feel constantly anxious. According to the American Association of Pediatric Dentists, the consequences of the thumb sucking habit after three to four years include that it might turn into an addiction

Also, as a result of prolonged finger sucking, a deformity of the thumb or the index finger might occur, leading to functional and esthetic problems that might require orthopedic intervention. Finally, risk potential increases for psychological reasons when intense, and prolonged thumb sucking is accompanied by hair pulling.

Thumb Sucking and Orthodontics

How Can Thumb Sucking Affect My Kids’ Teeth?

Aside from the psychological reasons and orthopedic consequences of thumb sucking, the most evident problem of this habit occurs in a kid’s teeth. Some of the most prevalent dental issues for a kid that prolongedly thumb sucks include:

  • An upper jaw condition that makes it extend further out.
  • An overbite is also a forward and upper extension of the upper front teeth.  
  • An irregular and angled position of the lower front teeth.
  • Upper and lower teeth do not adequately approximate each other at biting.
  • Front upper and lower teeth don’t meet together when biting.
  • The tongue is in an abnormal position.

There are notably many potential oral consequences of thumb sucking. In some cases, early intervention at the age of seven and orthodontic treatment in the early teenage years can help reposition the jaw and realign teeth. However, parents can avoid these abnormalities by taking preventive action to help a kid forego thumb sucking.  

How to Help My Kid Stop Thumb Sucking?

We previously regarded the importance of early detection of causes for thumb sucking. So, to figure out the reason, firstly, try to find if something is getting your kid anxious. 

Detect Signs of Anxiousness

If nothing stressful appears to be triggering thumb sucking but still happens, make your kid use its hands while playing. 

Use a Chart for Positive Reinforcement

We previously included a study recommending combining monitoring with chart incentives. For example, your kid gets a smiley face sticker every time stops thumb sucking; this helps recap when forgetting.

Be Gentle but Persistent

There are times your kid’s thumb sucks without even noticing. When this happens, gently tell your kid to stop.

If Help Is Needed, Do Not Doubt to Get Professional Assistance

Kids identify adults, other than their parents, with the authority to explain the reasons to forego habits, especially if the adult is a dentist with an apron.  

Time to Use an Orthodontic Device?

It might be a disenchanting idea for your kid, but sometimes it’s better to take rapid action. First, talk to an orthodontic pediatrist to help you determine the appropriate fixed or removable appliance to interrupt your kid’s habit.

Cover Your Kid’s Thumb

There are occasions when kids can control thumb sucking, especially if they are awake. Talk to your kid to get an interest in wearing a guard that helps prevent thumb sucking. 

If thumb sucking has led your kid to develop denture positioning problems, you need to know that there is still an opportunity to take action. Orthodontic prevention will help your kid during adulthood and reduce problems like: 

  • Tooth decay or gum disease;
  • It also helps prevent tooth loss caused by excessive stress over a tooth; 
  • It improves digestion and sleep, and; 
  • teeth alignment enhances a person’s appearance.  

Visit Newpark Orthodontics, and schedule an appointment for your little child; we will kindly and sweetly help you with an alternative to help your little person get a beautiful and healthy smile.