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Is Thumb or Finger Sucking a Problem for Children?

Thumb of finger sucking is perfectly normal behaviour for young children. It can provide comfort to a child who may feel bored or restless or who is hungry. It’s a habit most children will grow out of by age three or so and is generally not a problem in children age four or younger. Children who continue with thumb or finger sucking after this age are more likely to develop dental problems and it could potentially affect their speech. This is because prolonged thumb sucking affects the arrangement of the teeth, increasing the risk of malocclusion and it can affect the development of their jaws.

orthodontistPotential Problems Caused by Thumb Sucking

When a child does suck their thumb or finger then it can push the upper front teeth outwards, while the lower front teeth may be pushed inwards where the thumb rests on them. The action of sucking on a finger can also cause a change to the upper jaw, pulling it forward and elongating it so it becomes narrower. This can also lead to speech problems and children who suck their thumb or finger may have difficulty saying their Ts and Ds or will lisp slightly. If your child is still sucking their thumb or finger beyond the age of four then it’s well worth mentioning this to our dentist in Watton during their next visit so they can assess if it has caused any permanent damage.

Discouraging This Habit

We can talk to you about ways to discourage this habit at home which may include setting rules or trying to distract a child when they begin to suck their thumb. Some parents find it useful to give their child mittens or gloves to remind them not to suck their thumb, but obviously this does depend on the time of year. Perhaps a better idea is to offer positive reinforcement, particularly as thumb sucking can be a comfort for children and scolding them for having this habit may make the urge even stronger. One option is to set up a sticker system where they get one sticker for every day they managed not to suck their thumb. After certain the number of days then they can receive a small reward. There are also other options that include oral appliances that can be provided by our dentist in Watton which make it difficult for a child to suck their thumb.

Correcting Any Dental Problems Caused by Thumb Sucking

If your child has developed any dental problems as a result of this habit then we may recommend they visit a dentist in Watton. There are various oral appliances that can correct these problems such as a palatal expander which will help to widen the upper jaw, creating sufficient room for their teeth. This type of Teeth Straightening treatment can often be used to guide the growth of their jaws while they are still developing.

Most children will stop thumb or finger sucking on their own and it generally isn’t a problem for preschool children, but please don’t forget that we are always here to offer you advice when needed. You can contact Clarence House Dental Care to talk to our friendly dental team on 01953 882777.

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