The Truth About Your Tooth

Thumb Sucking — What Is The Problem And How Can A Dentist Help?

If you have a child who sucks their thumb, then your family dentist can speak with you about the ways that the habit can affect your child's oral health in the future. If you want to know about some of the negative consequences of this and to also learn how your dentist can prevent some of these issues, then keep reading.

Oral Health Problems

Thumb sucking is something that many children do to make themselves feel safe and secure. And, while it may be a normal part of the development process, some children will thumb suck for longer than they should. When this happens, the force of the thumb on the front teeth and the palette can lead to some permanent changes in the mouth. As the thumb presses on the roof of the mouth, the tissue can harden and thin out. This leads to sensitivities and it can change the way that the tongue touches the palate when speaking. This may cause a lisp.

The palate may also be stretched forward in a way that creates an overbite. An overbite is also an issue as the thumb thrusts against the front teeth. The teeth will angle forward and sometimes they will split apart. A gap may form between the two front teeth, creating an open bite. As the front teeth shift, the other teeth will also move in response. 

Thumb sucking can also bring more bacteria into the mouth. This can lead to gum, tooth, and other oral infections.

What Can A Dentist Do?

Your family dentist will typically start by having an open conversation with your child. This helps them to understand some of the oral problems that may be caused by the habit. And, the professional may offer some solutions to help with self-soothing, such as hugging a stuffed animal or cuddling with mom and dad.

If the problem continues, the dentist can use some appliances to halt the movement of the teeth so that orthodontic treatments can be completed later on. Space savers that consist of metal wires set behind the teeth can help with this. Retainers, oral guards, and other appliances may also be used. And, headgear may be needed to force the maxilla backward.

Dentists can also offer some bitter-tasting gels and nail polishes to make the act of thumb sucking an unpleasant experience. However, this is not recommended as the first option as it can make your child feel as though they are doing something wrong. 

For more information, contact a family dentist in your area.