How Does Thumb-Sucking Affect Your Child’s Oral Health? | Children’s Dentist, Vaughan



Have you noticed your child constantly sucking on their thumb? Between the ages of 2 to 4 years, kids sucking on their fingers is their way of finding comfort and soothing themselves. During the first few years, this habit helps stimulate sleep and is overall quite harmless to speech development and jaw alignment. 

However, what you may not have known is that this habit could result in oral issues as well as hinder their speech development if continued after 4 years of age. Digit-sucking oftentimes exposes the child to infection. This is understandably a hard habit to break.

Woodbridge Kids Dentistry in the York region is a trusted children’s dentist in Vaughan having years upon years of experience in treating children with diverse dental profiles. Our dentists employ a range of techniques to wean your child off this habit, and use leading laser dental care treatments to correct any ensuing conditions that may have cropped up as a result. 


Overview of Digit-Sucking

Bear in mind that not every child will damage their teeth by sucking on their fingers or thumbs. For instance, if the child passively holds their fingers in their mouth, no adverse effects will occur. 

Digit-sucking that involves considerable motion, on the other hand, could alter baby teeth and affect the way permanent teeth come in. 

Although your child’s permanent teeth do not come in until the age of 6, the damage could occur before that age. 


What Are the Triggers to Watch Out For?

Your child may display a pattern of thumb-sucking as a way to combat a certain emotion whether that be boredom, exhaustion, hunger or anxiety. If, for example, your child tends to suck their fingers when exposed to a stressful situation, it’s best to identify the source of their anxiety so as to tackle it better. 

While you shouldn’t let their thumb-sucking become a way of giving them attention, it is a good idea to try to distract them with another task, like drawing to occupy their hands, when you notice them lapse into that habit. 


Dental Conditions That Could Occur as a Result of Digit-Sucking

Thumb or finger sucking over a period of time could change dento-skeletal growth leading to a condition known as malocclusion or “bad bite.” A common sign of digit-sucking is bite marks or deformation on the fingers or thumbs. 

If you’ve noticed your child has a continued pattern of digit-sucking well after the age of 4 years, it’s best to get this remediated quickly. Your dentist may suggest strategies to curb the habit or let the child keep the habit until it resolves itself. 


Are Pacifiers a Good Way to Curb Digit-Sucking?

Many parents choose to curb their child’s digit-sucking by encouraging the use of a pacifier. This isn’t recommended as a pacifier can be equally damaging to the child’s tooth and jaw structure. Apart from this glaring issue, a pacifier can also be a germ magnet as they often come in contact with surfaces that aren’t sterilized.

There are certain instances where your dentist may suggest initially using a pacifier to distance your child from this behaviour, and then slowly wear them off the pacifier as well.

Either way, it’s best to consult with your dentist instead of employing any self-devised tactics to help your child overcome this condition. 


How to Effectively Discourage Digit-Sucking

There are a couple of things you can start to incorporate into your daily interactions with your child so as to wean your child off this habit. As each child’s dental profile is different and these strategies aren’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution, we strongly urge you to consult with a professionally trained dentist before moving forward;

– Establish positive reinforcement by commending your child when they don’t resort to digit-sucking in situations where they normally would.

– Be patient with your child when they do suck on their fingers. In a calm manner, tell them why they should stop and keep reiterating this message as many times as needed.

– You can get various OTC thumb shields that are made from soft plastic or fabric. Your child can wear these during those times in the day they would normally resort to sucking on their fingers. Again, we urge you to double-check with your dentist before incorporating this into your child’s life. 


Woodbridge Kids Dentistry Offers Effective Solutions to Help Your Child Overcome Digit-Sucking

Dental care, especially in your child’s formative years, is very very important. 

Woodbridge Kids Dentistry is a trusted pediatric dental care center. We are committed to providing dental care, promoting good oral health, and helping shape your child’s bright smile with our specialized dental treatments. Call us today at (905) 264-1543 and get your child’s digit-sucking behaviour corrected in a timely manner.