One of the most common questions parents ask us at Clairemont Pediatric Dental is, “Should I worry about my child’s thumbsucking habit?”

Thumbsucking is entirely normal for infants as they begin to experiment with basic mouth functions. From making sounds to sucking on a bottle, they begin to learn about this part of them, and thumbsucking is a natural part of that. If your young child regularly sucks his or her thumb, there’s typically little need to worry. As long as the fingers are kept clean and the habit is acknowledged, your child’s habit will likely run its course after few years. The real issues with thumbsucking arise when the habit continues from infancy to early adolescence.

The reason that thumbsucking is dangerous after infancy has to do with the development of your child’s mouth. An infant isn’t born with a developed mouth, so thumbsucking cannot really do any harm, and could in fact help to stimulate growth. However, when a child has a set of teeth, this habit needs to be managed.

A child’s first set of teeth, often called primary, deciduous, or baby teeth, will typically fall out as he or she grows. It’s not much too worry about if your child suck’s his or her thumb during this stage of growth. Once these teeth fall out to be replaced by permanent teeth, however, thumb sucking can cause real dental problems. The most common risks are overbites and infections, though other dental problems can also arise.

The best time to stop the habit is after your child grows from infancy to toddlerhood. Here are a few ways to encourage your child to stop any thumbsucking habits.

• Be open and honest. Tell your child why thumbsucking is dangerous to their health. • Stay positive. Negativity can do more harm than good. Reward for good behavior. • Be supportive. Habits aren’t always easy to break. • Distract. Keep your child’s hands busy through games or activities involving his or her hands.

Remember, your child is growing and developing. At this age, everything is essentially a learning process. With the proper understanding and positive reinforcement, it doesn’t have to be so hard. If you have any further questions regarding thumbsucking or any other pediatric dental needs, contact us by phone, email, or our webform.