Dangers of Thumb Sucking

At Hersch Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, we're proud to help kids throughout Newport Beach, CA and the greater South Los Angeles area achieve beautiful through smiles through comprehensive pediatric dental and orthodontic care. However, in addition to the pediatric dental treatment we provide in our Newport Beach office, your child's at-home dental health habits have a critical effect on the development of their smile. And unfortunately, one habit that's common for many children can also damage their dental development: thumb sucking.

Why Is Thumb Sucking Bad?

The sucking reflex is an instinctual response, and sucking on a thumb or finger is a common way that infants and babies comfort themselves. There's nothing inherently wrong with thumb sucking – for babies, it's a perfectly normal habit. However, if thumb sucking continues past age 4, it can cause significant problems in dental development. Prolonged thumb sucking can shift the positioning of the front teeth, causing them to tilt forward and form a malocclusion called an "open bite." Openbite occurs when the upper and lower teeth don't meet when the mouth is closed, impairing speech, chewing, and bite function.

How to Stop Thumb Sucking

If you notice your child continuing to suck on a thumb or finger for comfort past the age of 4, it may become necessary to intervene. Here are a few tips for gently helping your child stop thumb sucking:

  • Thumb sucking usually occurs when a child is anxious. If you notice your child sucking on a thumb, ask them how they're feeling and comfort them if they're experiencing anxiety.
  • It can be hard to quit thumb sucking all at once. To start, try limiting it to bedtime or naptime, then eventually eliminating the behavior entirely.
  • Always use positive reinforcement, rewarding or praising your child for good behavior. Punishment or negative feedback can create more anxiety and make it even harder to stop.
  • Explain the problems that thumb sucking can cause and how stopping will benefit your child's health.

If the thumb sucking habit proves too difficult to break on your own, we can help. Our pediatric dentists have worked with countless children to stop thumb sucking, and we can even employ specialized orthodontic appliances that make it effortless to stop thumb sucking – all without any pain or discomfort.

Schedule a Consultation with Your Newport Beach Pediatric Dentist

While thumb sucking is perfectly natural and normal during infancy, it can cause developmental problems down the line. If your child is struggling with thumb sucking, contact us to learn more strategies for stopping or to schedule a consultation for treatment. We can't wait to hear from you, and we look forward to helping your child achieve a healthy, beautiful smile!

Newport Beach, California

400 Newport Center Drive
Suite 701
Newport Beach, CA 92660
949-644-0611
​info@herschsmiles.com

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