Thursday 08 Jun 2023

Five side effects of thumb sucking you need to know

Dr Natasha Lopez | MAY 20, 2023, 11:25 PM IST
Five side effects of   thumb sucking   you need to know

To begin with, thumb sucking is a natural habit most commonly seen in infants and young children as a way to soothe and comfort themselves. This habit generally wears off as the child grows older but in some cases it persists for multiple reasons; lack of parental correction, anxiety, improper bottle feeding habits, discouragement over use of pacifiers, to name a few.  

As common knowledge suggests, anything good in excess is bad, and thus thumb sucking stands no exception. The basic rule of thumb (pun intended) includes children to have ceased the habit on their own before their permanent teeth start to erupt and this occurs by the average age of 6. 

It is beyond this point where thumb sucking gets classified as a bad habit, requiring intervention. The frequency and intensity of the habit determines the severity of the side effects of thumb sucking.

As cute as it may be, thumb sucking beyond a certain age is not recommended and here are 5 main reasons why.

Thumb sucking can cause teeth to grow incorrectly creating flaring of upper front teeth and inward inclination of lower front teeth, crossbites-- where the lower arch incorrectly overlaps the upper arch, crowding of teeth; 

Proper growth of jaws are hampered due to the consistent incorrect positioning of jaws during thumb sucking. This results in the upper arch to constrict causing the deepening of the palate to occur;

An open bite may form wherein the upper and lower front teeth do not touch or overlap each other when a person bites;

Speech development is hampered;

Thumb calluses and infections occur due to frequent exposure to saliva, biting pressure and germs.

Thumb sucking can be an ingrained behaviour that can be overcome gradually with time, understanding, and encouragement. Here are some tactics that could be useful:

Try explaining to your child why it is important that they drop the habit and the consequences of continuing the habit in a way that they can understand.

Observe and identify the triggers, if any, that causes the child to thumb suck. If anxiety and stress causes the child to thumb suck, teaching the child breathing and grounding exercises may help dropping the habit besides coping in a productive way.

Positive reinforcement: This method includes rewarding your child whenever a desired action is done so as to motivate the child to quit. This method is proven to work far better than negative reinforcement.

Bandaging the thumb.

As boredom can be a reason for the habit, engaging the child can combat it. If the habit still persists it is advisable for you to consult a paediatric dentist, orthodontist or paediatrician for additional support in specialized methods that can help your child combat the ill habit.

All in all, remember to be patient with the little one.  Breaking any habit, whether you are young or old can be challenging at times but patience, love and understanding can go a long way in resolving it.

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