Thumbsucking is a natural self-soothing behavior, but it can have negative long-term effects on the development of the jaw and the positioning of the teeth.
A thumbsucking habit that persists into kindergarten age may indicate that a child is looking for a way to manage negative emotions. In other cases, children engage in thumbsucking out of boredom or habit.
From our team at Full Circle Dental Care in Del City, Oklahoma, led by expert dentist Samuel Sigmon, DDS, here’s everything you need to know about how thumbsucking can impact the smile of your child.
When thumb sucking becomes problematic
Most specialists believe thumbsucking can become problematic beyond the age of 4, as permanent teeth may be already erupting at that age. Permanent teeth can erupt anywhere between the ages of 4 and 8.
Some parents may try to address the problem of thumbsucking by switching to a pacifier. However, pacifiers harm the jaw and teeth in the same way thumbsucking does.
Pacifiers can be especially harmful when dipped in sweet juices or in sugar, potentially leading to early tooth decay.
Dental issues associated with thumbsucking
Misalignments are the biggest risks with thumbsucking. By constantly putting pressure against it, the roof of the mouth can change shape, which can lead to overbites and underbites.
An overbite occurs when the front upper teeth protrude beyond the bottom teeth, causing a gap. Overbites can cause your lips to protrude a bit, and your chin may look underdeveloped as a result.
Underbites are characterized by the bottom teeth protruding further than the upper teeth. With an underbite, the chin is extended forward, appearing disproportionally large when compared to the rest of the face.
In severe cases, the treatment of underbites may require surgical interventions to reduce the size of the lower jaw.
Gum issues can also occur due to constant exposure to bacteria and dirt found on the thumbs. If your child’s immune system isn’t strong enough, these bacteria can increase your child’s risk of developing gum infections.
How to fix misalignments caused by thumbsucking
Dr. Sigmon can fix misalignments with the help of clear aligners, orthodontic devices made of clear plastic. These aligners are discrete and can be removed while eating or drinking.
If you or your child have developed issues due to thumbsucking, clear aligners could be a solution to your problems. Contact Full Circle Dental Care by phone, or schedule a consultation through our online booking system.