Benefits And Consequences Of Thumb Sucking Behaviour In Babies

One of the natural reflexes for children is thumb sucking. Other than this children use to suck fingers, pacifiers or other objects that make babies feel secure and happy. Once the permanent teeth come out, thumb sucking behaviour in children leads to the improper growth of mouth and also affects the alignment of teeth. Pacifiers also affect the teeth the same ways as sucking fingers and thumbs but it is easier to break the habit. Actually, the intensity of sucking determines whether or not dental problems arise.

At at the early stage of the life, most of the infants suck their fingers. But if the thumb sucking continues till the age of 5 it leads to dental problems. Once permanent teeth start coming in, it may develop to abnormal bite. And a prolonged finger sucking cause minor problems like fingernail infections, calluses etc.

thumb sucking behaviour in children

Normal Behaviour! How long is it acceptable?

Thumb sucking is acceptable for infants as this is a natural reflex. This natural reflex gives baby comfort and makes them feel secure and happy. The thumb sucking habit helps to induce sleep. The best time to discourage thumb sucking is by the age of three. Prolonged thumb sucking affects the child’s mouth, developing jaw and teeth and can lead to permanent teeth to be misaligned.

Thumb sucking leads to Deformed teeth

If your child continues to suck their thumb, the force due to sucking the finger causes teeth to come forward. This leads to a couple of dental problems  that include:

  • Posterior crossbite: In this case the front teeth overbite and the molars underbite that creates misalignment in the teeth that cross over the canines.
  • Anterior open bite: Here molar teeth come together but front teeth don’t come together.
  • Anterior excessive overjet: In this case top teeth overhand the bottom teeth.

Benefits of Thumbsucking

Thumb sucking is not a bad habit when your child is born since it helps in developing the muscles of the jaw and mouth. Another benefit is that thumb sucking behaviour in children helps to reduce allergic hypersensitivity and can have few allergic problems. But the benefits of thumb sucking vanishes quickly after six months of age.

Consequences of Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking should be considered seriously because it affects the child’s later in life. Various consequences of thumb sucking includes:

  • Abnormal tongue rest
  • Poor swallow patterns
  • Improper teeth position
  • Speech issues
  • Facial shape change
  • Narrowing of jaw
  • Altered breathing patterns

Thumb sucking alters the position and posture of the tongue. Tongue takes the main role in dental arch growth. Poor dental growth causes sleep-disordered breathing later. Signs of poor breathing include snoring, bedwetting, daytime tiredness etc.

Ways to stop thumb sucking

  1. Try to stop thumb sucking at earlier stages of a child’s life.
  2. Hold your child’s hand when they start thumb sucking.
  3. Encourage and praise your child for not sucking the thumb.
  4. After 6 months of age giver tougher foods to your child. This would help your child to focus on normal oral function.
  5. Consult a pedodontist and it might recommend necessary steps to stop thumb sucking.

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