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At Salt Lake Pediatric Dentistry, we’re proud to provide high-level child dental services for children of all ages. Whether you have a young toddler getting their first teeth or an older child who needs preventive tooth care, we have all the dental services you could need.

One common issue seen in younger children among dentists everywhere? Thumb sucking, which is present in about one third of all young children within the first year of life. Unfortunately, thumb sucking is not healthy and can have an impact on oral health. With that in mind, here are some basics on thumb sucking, its causes, and how to prevent it in your child.

Issues With Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking can cause several future oral issues, the most common of which is an open bite. This is a problem where the top and bottom teeth don’t come together when the mouth is closed, which interferes with chewing. An open bite can also lead to distortion of the palate, which in turn can lead to abnormal speech patterns or permanently misaligned biting.

What Causes It

There are several reasons why children might suck on their thumbs at a very young age, from anger or hunger to simple boredom or anxiety. Some children may do it when they’re sad, as a comforting method when they’re uncomfortable – which unfortunately happens often to infants.

Preventing Thumb Sucking

Here are a few areas of advice when it comes to preventing thumb sucking in your child, which you should be paying particular attention to if this habit hasn’t gone away by age four:

  • Triggers: The simplest and most effective method here is learning what actually causes the thumb sucking to begin with. From here, you can help work with them on alternative strategies.
  • Intervention: Once you’ve identified triggers, intervene while your child is in the act of thumb sucking to explain that it’s a bad habit. While doing so, show them a healthy alternative if possible.
  • Diversion: If straightforward intervention doesn’t do the trick, consider using distractions to their attention. Give them their favorite toy or do something else to hold their attention. Over time, this may move them away from thumb sucking.
  • Covering thumbs: If thumb sucking becomes a major issue that will not stop, consider covering your child’s thumbs with a cloth or a Band-Aid. This will make them less appetizing and will create an incentive for kids to stop – they can have their normal thumbs back.
  • Family: Make sure your entire family is on the same page with strategies used for thumb sucking. This includes younger siblings who may be around the child often, even when you aren’t.

For more on limiting thumb sucking in infants, or to learn about any of our pediatric dental services, speak to the staff at Salt Lake Pediatric Dentistry today.