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Pediatric Dentistry in Washington, DCDo you notice your child sucking their thumb often? Thumb sucking is a natural reflex for children. Sucking on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers, or other objects often make babies and young children feel secure and happy and may help them learn about their world. Also, children may use it as a mechanism to soothe themselves and fall asleep.

How does thumb sucking affect my child’s teeth?

Although it is common for children to suck their thumbs, it is not without detrimental effects. After permanent teeth come in, sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth. It can also cause changes in the roof of the mouth.

Pacifiers can affect the teeth essentially the same ways as sucking fingers and thumbs, but it is often an easier habit to break.

The intensity of the sucking is a factor that determines whether or not dental problems may result. If children rest their thumbs passively in their mouths, they are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs. Some aggressive thumb suckers may develop problems with their baby (primary) teeth.

When Do Children Stop Sucking Their Thumbs?

Children usually stop sucking between the ages of two and four years old, or by the time the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. If you notice changes in your child’s primary teeth, or are concerned about your child’s thumb sucking consult your dentist.

How Can I Help My Child Stop Thumb Sucking?

  • Praise your child for not sucking.
  • Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure or needing comfort. Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety and provide comfort to your child.
  • For an older child, involve him or her in choosing the method of stopping.
  • Your dentist can offer encouragement to your child and explain what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop sucking.

If these tips don’t work, remind the child of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night. Your dentist or pediatrician may prescribe a bitter medication to coat the thumb or the use of a mouth appliance.

What to do next?

If the thumb sucking become persistent you can bring it up to Dr. Maurice Haynes during your next pediatric dental appointment. If you live in the Bowie, MD or Washington, DC area, or surrounding counties (Prince George’s, Montgomery, Anne Arundel) give him a call at 301-302-8395