Thumb Sucking | Long-Term Effects and Breaking the Habit

Posted on July 13, 2017

It is common for children to use thumb sucking, finger sucking, pacifiers, and teething toys  as a way to help soothe and comfort themselves.  Unfortunately, thumb sucking can have long lasting negative side effects if the habit continues past the age of 3. If you are a parent who’s child is struggling to break this habit, read on!

Possible Outcomes of Prolonged Thumb Sucking

Open bite or Overbite

One of the more serious side effects of thumb sucking is the different types of dental malocclusions it can cause. Malocclusion is a term that describes tooth misalignment that is visible when the mouth is closed. Two of the most common types of malocclusions caused by thumb sucking are open bites and overbites.

An open bite occurs when the top and bottom front teeth become directed outward. This misalignment means that the front teeth do not touch, even when the child’s mouth is completely closed in biting position.

Open Bite

Overbites occur when the upper teeth become directed outward and go over the lower teeth too much.  This misalignment means that the top teeth cover the bottom teeth when the child’s mouth is closed in biting position.

Overbite

Skin Problems/Germs

Children who suck their thumb over the course of many years may experience uncomfortable or serious skin problems on their preferred thumb. When exposed to the moisture of the mouth, the skin can become vulnerable to injuries and in some cases may crack and bleed. The roof of the child’s mouth will likely become sensitive as well.

Speech Impediment

Since thumb sucking affects development of the teeth, jaw and palate, it can also change the way your child speaks and eats. This can cause a lisp and other speech impediments, including the inability to pronounce certain sounds. Without correct dental care, even high-quality speech therapy may not fully correct these issues. The way a sound exits a persons mouth partially depends on the shape of their teeth in relation to his or her tongue.

Social Issues

Thumb sucking is a subconscious response to stress or boredom for many children. Your child may not even be aware when they go to suck their thumb! This is why they will need your support and instruction to overcome this habit before it progresses into their school years where bullying often takes place.

How to break the habit of thumb sucking

  1. Talk to your child- Always start with talking to your child about why thumb sucking is a bad habit. Talking to them doesn’t always break the habit, but it can help them understand. Positive motivation to quit is half the battle!
  2. YouTube- Showing your child YouTube videos can sometimes help them decide on their own to stop sucking their thumb or fingers. Often times, kids need to hear about bad habits from someone other than mom and dad.
  3. Find your child’s favorite thumb sucking times- Watching TV and sleeping are two of the most common times kids soothe themselves by thumb or finger sucking. Identify your child’s problem time and work together to come up with a plan on how to help them acknowledge what they are doing. At nighttime, you can tape a popsicle stick to the child’s thumb or finger. This will prevent them from being able to put their fingers in their mouth; putting a sock over their hand is a similar idea that has proven to work as well.
  4. Sticker chart or positive rewards system- Make a sticker chart and provide rewards for success.
  5. Remember to praise and encourage- Throughout the day, continue to praise your child. If you notice they have not sucked their thumb in over an hour, congratulate them and continue to go about your day.

Breaking this habit might not be easy, but stay persistent. If your child is struggling with speech or dental issues, it may be time to come see us at . We can work with your child to break their thumb sucking habit and evaluate them for any jaw or bite issues FREE of charge. At Fry Orthodontics, we offer metal braces, clear braces and Invisalign all for the same price! Give us a call today at 913-469-9191 | 816-877-0050

Categories: Oral Health
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