Orthodontic Care for your young child

At Elite Smiles Chastain Pediatric Dentistry, we’re proud to provide comprehensive pediatric dental treatment for children throughout Buckhead and the Chastain Park Area. We take a long-term approach to dental health, designing comprehensive treatment plans that focus on prevention to help your

Dangers of Thumb Sucking.

child develop a healthy smile in the long-term. While most of our treatments focus on dental health and hygiene, there are some cases where we need to correct bad habits to ensure proper dental health: and one of those habits is prolonged thumb sucking.

Is Thumb Sucking Dangerous?

Now, we know what you’re thinking: thumb sucking is a bad habit? Don’t all kids suck their thumbs? And you’re right: the sucking response is an innate reflex, and infants everywhere comfort themselves by sucking on a thumb or finger. And during infancy, there’s nothing wrong with it.

However, if the thumb sucking habit continues too long – usually past the age of 3 or 4 – it can cause problems in dental development. Over time, the habit of sucking on the thumb places pressure on the upper and lower front teeth, causing them to tilt forward at an angle. This changes the alignment of the teeth and creates a condition called an “open bite,” where the upper and lower front teeth don’t come together when the mouth is closed, leaving a gap in the smile. Open bite is a serious malocclusion that can impair both speech and bite function, and if it isn’t prevented early, it can require extensive orthodontic treatment later in life.


How to Stop Thumb Sucking

Most children stop sucking their thumb on their own sometime between ages 2 and 4. However, sometimes, kids need a little help. If you notice your child still regularly sucks on a thumb or finger past age 3, here are some tips for helping them break the habit:

  • Use Positive Reinforcement: When trying to stop thumb sucking, it’s important to rely on positive reinforcements like praise and reward instead of negative reinforcements like scolding. This is because negative reinforcement can increase anxiety and discomfort, causing your child to want to suck their thumb even more.
  • Identify the Triggers: Most kids have distinct triggers that cause them to engage in thumb sucking. These triggers are usually stressors that cause feelings of anxiety, or they may start from simple boredom. One effective technique is to identify your child’s triggers, then provide a preemptive alternative to thumb sucking like a hug or an activity to keep their hands busy. Over time, they’ll lose the urge to suck their thumb when they encounter the trigger.
  • Use Creativity: Finally, a little creativity goes a long way whenever trying to change a child’s behavior. You know your child best: whether it’s through specific rewards, “monster spray” to ease anxiety about childhood fears, or any other method, don’t be afraid to try something that will speak specifically to your child.

Thumb Sucking Treatment

Finally, if all else fails, your Buckhead pediatric dentist can use certain pediatric orthodontic treatments to easily, painlessly stop the thumb sucking habit. We can use an orthodontic appliance called a tongue crib to physically prevent thumb sucking without causing pain or discomfort, making it easy for any child to give up thumb sucking, tear-free. Plus, we can provide more strategies for easing the transition and helping your child move beyond the habit of thumb sucking.

Schedule an appointment with Elite Smiles Chastain Pediatric Dentistry today for a consultation for your Child

While thumb sucking is perfectly normal early in life, it’s important for all children to give it up once they reach a certain age. If you have more questions about thumb sucking or how we can help your child break the habit, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at our contact page or request a consultation online. We can’t wait to hear from you, and we look forward to helping your child develop a beautiful, healthy smile!

Elite smiles is the best option for our kids in the Chastain area. We’ve taken our kids to a few practices and none had the level of care that Dr. Powell and his team offer.

Lauren H.