Consequences of Thumbsucking
Thumbsucking is a common habit in infants. Babies derive great pleasure in thumbsucking. It helps them relax when they are bored, tired, hungry, or sleepy. Many children stop the habit on their own, usually by age 6 or 7 months or between 2 and 4 years.
While this habit isn’t usually something to worry about, prolonged or intense thumbsucking can have a range of side effects, including the following:
Dental malocclusion is arguably the most severe consequence of thumbsucking. This is typically tooth misalignment that may be seen even when the mouth is closed. Two main types of malocclusion can result from thumbsucking:
- Open bite– This condition occurs when the bottom and top front teeth become direct outward. Consequently, your child’s front teeth won’t touch even if he closes his mouth completely.
- Overbite – This type of misalignment occurs when the upper front teeth become directed outward. This results in the top teeth covering the bottom teeth when the child’s mouth is closed. This condition can affect the shape of your child’s face and smile.
The fact that thumbsucking undermines proper development of the palate, jaw, and teeth, the habit can also affect how your child speaks. It may lead to lisping and other speech difficulties, including the inability to pronounce hard consonants such as “D” and “T.”
These effects may cause your child to have a hard time communicating. Many kids with speech problems also experience increased levels of anger, frustration, and sense of isolation.
Prolonged thumbsucking can lead to serious skin problems on the child’s favored thumb. Prolonged exposure of the skin to mouth moisture can make the skin more prone to other injuries. For example, the skin may crack, exposing your child to the risk of infections. Moreover, the moisture and pressure of thumbsucking can cause warping of the thumbnail, resulting in peeling or ingrowth.
If your child continues thumbsucking into school, he risks being ridiculed by his peers. This is because thumbsucking is typically considered a toddler activity. This can affect a child’s social development.
If you are concerned about the effects of thumbsucking on your child’s teeth and overall well-being, consult with a pediatric dentist. The dentist will advise you on the best way to help your child stop the habit.