Thumb sucking is a natural reflex for children. Sucking on thumbs, fingers, dummies or other objects aids to make babies and toddler feel secure and happy. It’s also a natural way to explore, integrate and understand their world. However, this habit can also be detrimental on your child’s oral health if it becomes excessive.

The intensity of thumb sucking is the factor that determines whether or not dental problems may occur. Differentiate between whether the child rests their thumbs passively in their mouth, or whether the child is vigorously sucking their thumb and causing a forward/backward motion. It is the later that can impact the teeth and can create the following issues:

• Misaligned bite
• Palate issues
• Speech problems
• Overbite or Overjet

More information on these issues can be found on the Australian Society of Orthodontics website here.

A child usually breaks this habit between the ages of two – four. However, in some instances where the child may experience anxiousness, nervousness or bedtime stress, can cause this habit to escalate. When you’re ready to break the habit, one of the following may be affective; reducing anxiety, rewarding positive behaviour, or focusing on when they may require comfort or security. Perhaps if your child is older, you can involve them in choosing a method to break the habit.

On the occasion that you are having trouble encouraging change, it is smart to consult with your general dentist. They may recommend using a bitter medication to place on the nail, thumb guard or in rare cases a mouth appliance to discourage thumb sucking.

Whether you are concerned with your child’s thumb sucking habit or you just want some friendly advice for the future, give our friendly Gosford dental team a call on (02) 4324 1181.