Is Thumb-Sucking Bad For Your Child's Teeth?

by Michael Abdoney - 08/27/2023 -Orthodontic Care,orthodontic treatments,Orthodontics,Orthodontist Tampa FL,Teeth

Millions of parents wonder whether the harmless act of thumb-sucking might lead to dental or other kinds of problems for children. It's a good question that is more complex than most mothers and fathers realize. There's no significant danger from thumb-sucking unless the activity occurs after the child's first teeth arrive. After that point in their young lives, sucking the thumb can sometimes cause various types of dental and mouth problems.

For those who want to gather the pertinent facts about the issue, it's essential to understand a few basic points about thumb-sucking, namely:

  • Pacifier use and thumb-sucking can interfere with dental development, the position of new teeth, the mouth roof's formation, and future jaw alignment.
  • In most situations, there's no need to worry about pacifiers or thumbs IF the child stops the habit before dental development begins.
  • It's wise to begin breaking sucking habits, for either pacifiers or thumbs, before the initial dental development.
  • Use commonsense strategies for helping children get out of the thumb-sucking or pacifier-sucking habit.
  • The sucking reaction for newborns and infants is healthy and natural. It is a human response to stress and weariness. Babies engage in the activity when they want to sleep or feel more secure.

Is Thumb-Sucking "Bad For Teeth?"

As noted above, the question is complicated and depends on many factors. Parents need to evaluate the whole situation before taking action. What factors determine whether sucking is a detrimental activity for your baby?

1. Timing: If teeth have not yet begun to sprout up, then sucking a thumb or pacifier presents no significant problem for most babies.

2. Pressure: If your child, of any age, sucks vigorously, that's a sign that potential dental problems could be in store. Strong suction puts more pressure on gums, the roof of the mouth, and incoming teeth. Gentle sucking is less of a worry because the thumb or pacifier is not pushing as strongly against parts of the interior mouth.

3. Frequency: Some babies suck infrequently or gently just before sleep. In these cases, there's a much lower risk of the activity interfering with dental and mouth development. That's because it's much easier to break the habit for babies who are not vigorous or frequent thumb-suckers.

4. Individual Factors: Not all children undergo the same physical development process. Using the common two-year cutoff point for ending pacifier use and breaking the thumb-sucking habit is arbitrary. Ask your pediatrician whether your baby will likely experience early or later-than-usual dental and mouth development.

The Bottom Line On Thumb-Sucking

Most parents don't need to worry about potential dental problems associated with thumb-sucking because most infants grow out of the habit or easily break it well before it can interfere with dental maturation.