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Children's Dentistry

The Battle of the Thumb

Young Boy Sucking His ThumbWhat’s Wrong with Sucking Your Thumb?

Most parents of preschoolers are engaged in the “battle of the thumb.” The thumb usually wins hands down. Continuous pressure on teeth from sucking can affect bone growth or even change the shape of the roof of the mouth. Upper teeth are sometimes pushed out while bottom teeth are pushed in. Speech and swallowing may also be affected.

What’s a parent to do?

Generally, a positive approach is the best defense in helping your child conquer the habit.

Reward your child for not sucking (scolding is counterproductive)—small gifts are fair game. For extreme cases, a dental device called a “tongue crib” can also be fitted. A tongue crib takes all the fun out of thumb sucking, painlessly, while also training the tongue to be held in the proper position.

Be positive and persistent, and you’ll both win the battle of the thumb.

Here’s Some Good News:

Most children who suck their thumbs stop by the ages of 3 or 4 with no damage to their teeth. But children who suck their thumbs frequently (not just at bedtime) after the ages of 4 or 5 may be in for some trouble.

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