Pediatric Dentistry of Jupiter wants to inform you on the damage that sucking your thumb can cause. Dr. Gilda Alonzo, a pediatric dentist in Jupiter, FL, brings you the parent, the information you need to give your child the best care.
Those beginning years when your child is in high developmental stages, it is difficult as a parent to micromanage everything they do; sometimes you just need a breather. Temper tantrums, crying, whining; sometimes it hard to imagine peace again. So, when your child finds something that pacifies them and calms them for a bit, we tend to cater to that so we can have a moment of peace. Sounds kind of bad, huh? Well, it’s not; and every parent feels the same way at some point in their parenting career, and most, at many points in that time. However, there are factors to consider when your child wants to suck their thumb or use a pacifier. Firstly, consider that any habit your infant or child forms, is going to be another one you will have to ween them off of and break. Secondly, there are factors to consider about the differences between a pacifier and thumb sucking.
When your child finds solace in using a pacifier, the parent can control the use of the calming crutch. You, as a parent, can take the pacifier away and only allow access at certain times of the day or situations. You also have control over removing access to using the pacifier when it is no longer appropriate, and time to ween your child from the use of this crutch. However, according to doctors, children that use pacifiers are more likely to develop ear infections (WebMD, LLC, 2017).
An advantage of your child choosing thumb-sucking as their soother is that it rarely interferes with breast feeding. Studies show that pacifier use tends to interfere with breast feeding (Citation). However, even though in most cases children will cease use of this calming crutch on their own, as a parent you have little control over the availability of their thumb. Therefore, it becomes more difficult to ween them off of the use of thumb-sucking to calm themselves down. If your child’s use of sucking his or her thumb to calm themselves does not dissipate between the age of 2 or 3, there can be negative side effects. It is natural for children to taper off on their own between the age of 3 and 5, however, after the age of 4, the child can develop dental problems as a result of it. Not to mention, the child’s thumb can become malformed (American Dental Association, 2017).
Without a parent’s control over when the child is sucking their thumb versus a more monitored usage with a pacifier, sometimes the parent does not know when the child is still sucking their thumb. Even when a parent discourages the use of this for soothing effects as the child gets older, the child may be sucking their thumb when the parent is not aware of it. This really poses a problem for the weening process.
It is important as a parent, to realize that if your child does not instinctively seek out a pacifier for soothing effects; or does not find his thumb for solace on his or her own, you by no means should encourage it. Many children do not use either method for a calming solution, and the children and parents fair fine. It is very tempting in those trying times of lack of sleep, hectic schedules, and public embarrassments, that we as parents want to just get a moment of silence and peace. However, you may be creating more work for yourself down the road. And if your child develops dental issues because of this crutch, you’ll be even more effected than you realize.
Dental Health Risks:
Malformed Teeth- Dental and Bony Jaw changes as a result of thumb sucking as the child ages.
The pressure from sucking can narrow the arch in addition, pressure from sucking can cause further collapse of the upper arch from the cheeks. It is common for there to be an obvious overbite from the upper arch being pulled outward. The lower arch of the jaw becomes pushed inward and teeth grow in awkward with a malformed jawline.
Swallowing can be affected as well as a result of sucking one’s thumb. Children enter into this calming crutch during important developmental stages of learning to function properly. Our bodies adapt to our habits. It is important as a parent to be aware of the long-term effects of the habits of our parenting and our children (American Dental Association, 2017).
American Dental Association. (2017). Thumb sucking and Pacifier Use. Retrieved from http://mouth healthy.org
WebMD, LLC. (2017). Thumb-Sucking Versus Pacifier Use - Topic Overview. Retrieved from http://webmd.com