Do you have a young child who sucks their thumb of finger? This is one of the most common questions we address at Eco Pediatrics. It is a perfectly natural reflex in very young children and can help make them feel safe and comfortable.
Whenever a child feels stressed or experiences any negative emotions, then they may turn to this unhealthy dental habit to soothe and comfort themselves. So when does it become a problem?
When is it Time to Stop Thumb Sucking?
Most children will naturally grow out of this habit between the ages of two and four. By this stage they begin to develop other methods of coping with any stress, including the ability to speak. However for some kids, thumb sucking can be a harder habit to break and this can cause problems both socially and developmentally.
A child who still sucks their thumb by the time they go to kindergarten may be teased, which can make the problem even worse as the habit is comforting (Read also: Kids Fun Zone).
At the same time, sucking a thumb or finger can lead to developmental issues, affecting the growth and development of their teeth and jaws. Up until fairly recently it was thought that as long as a child stopped sucking their thumb by the time their permanent teeth had come through (permanent teeth) then there would be very little impact on their mouth (Read also: Children’s Preventative Dentistry). Now it seems as if that isn’t the case and that this unhealthy dental habit can have an impact at a much younger age.
Unhealthy Dental Habit and Shape of a Child’s Jaws
When a child sucks their finger or thumb it puts pressure on the roof of the mouth and on the sides of the upper jaws. This pressure can distort the shape of the mouth as the bones are soft and still developing and as a result the upper jaw can become elongated and too narrow to comfortably accommodate the adult teeth as they begin to erupt.
If this unhealthy dental habit occurs, then it can be corrected and it is likely to be picked up by pediatric dentist, Dr. Alex or by another of our best dentists in Brooklyn when your child has their regular dental exam at the Eco Dental.
How to Correct Problems Caused by Thumb Sucking
At this stage, they may suggest your child sees a good orthodontist, Brooklyn for a proper evaluation so early orthodontic treatment may be provided. We can also help in other ways, by suggesting techniques to help your child stop thumb sucking.
Your child can have an orthodontic evaluation in Brooklyn as soon as age six or seven and we can provide suitable treatment to help correct any problems caused by this unhealthy dental habit.
One of the great things about getting treatment at such a young age is that we can use their growth and development to help direct the growth of the jawbone, making sure there is enough space for their adult teeth to come through, reducing the risk of tooth extractions as part of orthodontic treatment during the teenage years.
One appliance commonly used to treat thumb sucking is called a palatal expander. This is an appliance that gradually expands the width of the upper jaw, creating a more pleasing shape so the adult teeth can come through in a nice, even arrangement.