Thumb sucking is a natural reflex in infants and toddlers that can help them feel comforted. However, this behavior can have a negative impact on the growth of the jaw and mouth if it continues past the age of five. Vigorous thumb sucking can result in bite issues, teeth misalignment, changes to the shape of the roof of the mouth, and speech impediments.
Thumb Sucking and the Development of Teeth
Children who suck their thumb may not develop dental problems if they only lightly or intermittently suck on it. If they suck on it vigorously or consistently, then it can displace their incoming adult teeth and lead to a crooked smile. This can also cause the back teeth to clash with each other as they grow in, which wears down the molars and leads to sensitivity.
Other issues include open bites where the upper and lower teeth don’t touch when the mouth is closed. This can lead to a number of problems, including wearing down the teeth, sensitivity, and even fractures. In addition, children with an open bite are more likely to develop a lisp.
The best way to resolve these issues is to encourage your child to break the habit as soon as possible. Avoid scolding or punishing them if they continue to suck their thumb as this can reinforce the behavior. If they are older and cannot kick the habit, then orthodontic treatment like braces, clear aligners, palatal expanders, or surgery may be necessary.