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Dental Health for Children: Thumb Sucking

As nearly everyone knows, it is considered normal for children to enjoy sucking on pacifiers when they are young.

It is not uncommon for babies to suck on their fingers or thumb(s), especially when the pacifier isn't handy.

Also considered normal, statistically, is the developmental milestone where a child will give up thumbsucking when he or she is about 4 years old. Statistics being what they are, however, there will always be a sizeable number of toddlers who manage to retain the habit a little while longer.

While the effects of thumb or pacifier sucking doesn't impact the development or orthodontic positioning of teeth up to the age of four (4), changes can and will occur if thumb sucking is maintained too long.

If your child still has a sucking habit after age 4, be sure to tell your dentist. The dentist can watch carefully for any problems as the teeth develop. Dentists can be helpful in learning behavioral techniques to help extinguish the unwanted behavior.

Implications for Orthodontic Treatment Planning

At age 6, when the permanent teeth start coming in, or erupting, thumb sucking will affect the positioning and orthodontic alignment of those newly emerging teeth.

Patients who continue to have the thumb sucking habit well into later years, are usually not recommended for orthodontic treatments by their orthodontist (or orthdontic dentist) until the thumb sucking behavior is eliminated.

Thumb sucking (even the unconscious or subconscious kind, during sleep) can cause expensive treatment failures for some patients.

Parents can get help for deprogramming the thumb sucking behavior from their orthodontist, pedodontist or family dentist.



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