Thumb sucking is a common habit for most babies. However, if it continues past toddlerhood, it can lead to dental damage. Babies are born with a reflex that triggers sucking and sucking stimulates the release of endorphins that are known to calm babies. Although the sucking reflex allows babies to get the nourishment they need, it can also be transferred from the bottle or breast to a thumb or finger. Thumb sucking then becomes a self-soothing behavior. This can start in-utero or shortly after birth.

If your child continues sucking his or her thumb, the habit can interfere with the normal development of their facial muscles, skeletal bones and other oral and facial structures. The roof of the mouth can grow vertically rather than horizontally, which can affect a child’s breathing patterns, speech and tooth eruption and alignment. It can also damage the growth of their finger or thumb. Orthodontic treatment can be needed later, resulting from buck teeth, an open bite or other similar issues.

Various treatments are available for thumb-sucking and can help your child break their habit gently and without excessive emotional stress. Oral appliances are one option to help relieve the habit. While these appliances can prevent night time thumb sucking, your child will need to be an active participant in breaking the habit during the daytime. By using a positive approach that focuses on the problem rather than the child, this can be particularly beneficial in teaching your child new ways of coping. Call us today to learn more or to schedule an appointment with our orthodontist.