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Child sucking their thumb.

Thumb-sucking and Your Child’s Oral Health

While thumb-sucking is a natural reflex for infants and toddlers that can begin in the womb, long-term thumb-sucking can lead to a host of oral health problems. At Old Bridge Dental, we want your little one to grow big and strong, and have a beautiful smile for years to come.

If your child is age five or older and still sucking their thumb, here’s more about how it may affect their oral health and what you can do about it.

Potential Dental Problems

Thumb-sucking or long-term pacifier use can lead to dental problems because both can cause the teeth to become misaligned. Additionally, thumb-sucking can also lead to a condition called malocclusion, which is when the upper and lower teeth do not meet properly. Malocclusion can eventually result in difficulty chewing or speaking, which can lead to developmental delays. That’s why breaking the habit early on is ideal to avoid these potential dental problems.

Here are a few tips for parents when it comes to breaking their child’s thumb-sucking habit:

  • Gently discourage the behavior whenever it is observed. When your child is sucking their thumb, calmly remind them to stop.
  • Provide positive reinforcement when the child is not sucking their thumb. Consider things like reading an extra bedtime story for good behavior.
  • Create a plan with specific goals and deadlines. It’s important to be patient and consistent when trying to break a child’s thumb-sucking habit, as it can take some time to change the behavior.
  • Look for triggers. Some children suck their thumb when they’re stressed. Once triggers have been identified, the real issue can be addressed.

If your child’s thumb-sucking is beginning to interfere with their oral health, we encourage you to book a visit with us to have their mouth evaluated. We look forward to seeing you (and them) in the practice soon.

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