Thumb-sucking & Your Toddler’s Teeth

Prolonged thumb-sucking can cause mouth and teeth issues.

Prolonged thumb-sucking can cause mouth and teeth issues. Find out what you can do to help your child limit thumb-sucking.

We each have our own ways of dealing with stressful situations. Whether it is drinking a glass of wine after a hard day or a nice long run on the nearest hiking trail to clear your head from that disastrous work meeting, we all need to self-comfort in some manner. Babies are no different but instead of turning to an activity or pastime like adults do, they turn to the closest thing they have — their thumb (or for some kids, their fingers).

It’s a great coping mechanism, but if thumb-sucking continues beyond a child’s first few years, it can lead to a mouth — or jaw — full of problems. Constant pressure on the jaw and mouth caused by thumb-sucking can change the way these body parts develop. Sucking can cause the upper jaw to narrow, which changes the child’s bite. As the child gets older, teeth in the back of the mouth are forced to take on the brunt of chewing. This can lead to dental issues down the road.

So what can you do to help your kid kick the habit?

  • Limit the amount of time you allow your child to suck his or her thumb. Restrict thumb-sucking to in the house; do not allow it in public.
  • Help your child be aware of thumb-sucking. Many kids do it unconsciously, so help them find another way to feel comfort.
  • Don’t use the nasty tasting topical stuff. It’s not nice and it’s not fair.
  • Don’t cover their hand with a glove or mitten. Would you want to wear winter gear indoors to help you break a bad habit?

Children who continue to suck their thumbs are dealing with anxiety the best way they know how. Be patient as you help them work through finding another way to self-comfort.

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2 Responses to “Thumb-sucking & Your Toddler’s Teeth”

  1. teri
    11/22/2013 at 12:42 pm #

    As the parent of a child who really loved sucking his thumb, I know how hard it is for some kids to stop – even when they want to.

    When my son was 7, our orthodontist told us that he was going to need an expander within the year and had to stop sucking his thumb before it could go on. I wasn’t willing to make my son suffer with any of the products on the market used to MAKE kids stop thumb sucking: plastic sheathes, neoprene thumb sleeves and bitter tasting ointments just to name a few. I also didn’t want him to feel bad about needing to stop sucking his thumb. So we talked about it – a lot. He wanted to stop, he just couldn’t. He would suck his thumb unconsciously during the day and all night in his sleep. First we tried using a regular knit glove, but he would pull it off in the night because his hand would get too hot. I had him sleep in my bed and spent all night pulling his thumb out of his mouth. Clearly, we needed another solution: Thumb-Thing. By eliminating all of the fingers but the thumb, his hand stayed cool and he would wear it all night. During the day he would put it on while we watched a movie or read a book, or anytime he thought he might suck his thumb. I didn’t have to do anything but make sure his Thumb-Things were clean. He never forgot to put it on at night, and instead of feeling bad about himself, he was proud.

    Wishing you and your little one all the best!
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    • Leah Martinez →
      11/26/2013 at 9:54 am #

      Thank you for sharing your story Teri!

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