The habit of thumb and finger sucking in young children seems to provide comfort and relaxation. This habit is completely natural and when left in baby and toddlerhood, shouldn’t cause any problems for your child. However, if your child’s thumb and finger sucking habit still persists once the baby teeth have come through, it can cause harm to his or her oral health.
Many children will outgrow their thumb sucking habit on their own, between the ages of two and four years old. However, if it continues past this age, thumb and finger sucking can change the shape of the jaw, inhibit the growth patterns of the bone, and cause the teeth to become misaligned. This is because a child’s jaws, which are growing rapidly at this age, are fairly flexible and soft. This means that the constant pressure of a finger or thumb can deform the jawbones.
RISKS OF THUMB & FINGER SUCKING
Below are a few of the consequences of constant thumb sucking:
Flaring of the upper front teeth
Causes the lower teeth to move inward
Stunt the growth of the lower jaw
Thrust the upper jaw forward
Misalignment of the teeth and jaws
Causes an anterior bite (which is when the front teeth of the jaws fail to close completely)
There are many ways of helping your child to stop sucking his or her thumb and fingers. These can include putting gloves on your child’s hands, coating the fingers in a bitter-tasting substance, even rewarding the child by using sticker charts and bribes. However, there are still kids who will continue to suck their thumbs even after these home remedies have been tried.
HOW WE CAN HELP
If you aren’t finding success with helping your child resist the urge to suck his or her thumb and fingers, or if your child’s thumb sucking has persisted past the age of 4, it may be time for you to visit Balota Family Dentistry. Here at our office, Dr. Nora Balota will fit your child with a fixed palatal crib, which is a small metal device worn inside the mouth, behind the front teeth. This device will prevent your child’s thumb or fingers from being able to touch the gums behind the front teeth. This lack of contact seems to take all the fun out of thumb and finger sucking for kids, helping them quit the habit.
For more information on fixed palatal cribs, or if you’d like to make an appointment with Dr. Nora Balota, please contact Balota Family Dentistry. Our dental office is located in Colorado Springs, CO.