Thumb Sucking and Your Child's Teeth


As your Spring Lake, MI family dentist and dental advisors, it's our goal at Arbutante Dental to provide the utmost in care for your child. We're not just committed to offering unparalleled pediatric dental care when your child is sitting in our Spring Lake, MI office – we want to help your child throughout his or her daily life as well. Because of that, we’d like to take this time to bring up an oral habit that can be harmful for your child – thumb sucking.

Why This Is Harmful 

Sucking on a thumb or a finger is a completely normal habit for babies – some even develop this before they’re even born! While it’s a soothing act for babies, the truth is that if this goes on past the age of three or four, bite problems can arise. With a normal bite, the upper teeth will grow to overlap the lower teeth. However, with the constant pressure of a thumb resting on the gums, it will interfere with normal tooth eruption and jaw growth, causing a problematic condition known as open bite. Open bite is when the teeth don’t overlap when a patient bites his or her teeth together; instead, there’s an open space between the upper and the lower teeth. Because of this, thumb sucking is a habit that needs to eventually be broken.

Breaking the Habit 

Keep in mind that most children will stop their thumb-sucking habits on their own between the ages of two and four. If you’re worried about your child’s thumb sucking and he or she is still in that age range, the first thing you should do is relax and ignore it. If your child doesn’t seem to be able to stop at a later age, you should try one of the following methods:

  • Praise and Reward – Talk to your child about why it’s important not to suck on thumbs. Come up with a way to reward your child for not doing it. It can be with a game, a toy, a treat, or anything else that your child enjoys. Use gentle reminders instead of scolding when you notice your child sucking on his or her thumb and use praise when your child stops; positive reinforcements work better than negative ones.

  • Comfort and Distract – Children have different things that trigger their thumb sucking. If the thumb sucking starts when your child is bored, try to utilize some activities to keep him or her busy.

  • Let Us Help – If your child is still thumb sucking, please be sure to let us know. We’re experts at helping patients understand how important it is to stop this harmful habit. If it’s necessary, we can even fit your child with a special oral appliance known as a tongue crib. This physically prevents a patient from thumb sucking, causing the complete breaking of the habit within a few months.

Thumb sucking is just one of the reasons why it’s so important to bring your child to the pediatric dentist starting at the age of one. We won’t just help wean your child off thumb sucking, but we can also help prevent tooth decay, teach you and your child effective oral hygiene techniques, and monitor your child’s dental development.

Contact Your Spring Lake, MI Pediatric Dentist Today!

If you'd like to schedule an appointment for your child at your Spring Lake, MI family dentist, we encourage you to give us a call at (616) 842-0090. If you have any questions for us, please feel free to contact us. We can't wait to hear from you!

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Thumb Sucking - Dear Doctor Magazine

How Thumb Sucking Affects The Bite Thumb sucking can actually block the front teeth from erupting fully and can also push the teeth forward — sometimes more on the side where the thumb rested. How far out of position the teeth end up will depend on the number of hours per day the thumb was in the child's mouth and how much pressure was applied. When the pressure exerted by the thumb in the mouth is particularly strong and occurs over a long period of time, the forces can potentially influence growth of the jaws... Read Article

Thumb Sucking - Dear Doctor Magazine

Thumb Sucking in Children Sucking fingers or thumbs is completely normal for babies and young children. In fact, babies actually begin to suck on their fingers or thumbs even before they are born. Yet it's a habit that bears watching because it can influence the development of your child's teeth and jaws if it goes on too long... Read Article

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