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Thumb Sucking

The Problems with Thumb Sucking

Many parents will be relieved to know that thumb sucking is a natural reflex. It often starts in the womb and makes babies feel secure, safe and comforted.

But there are problems associated with thumb sucking. And these problems can increase the more a child sucks their thumb. Thumb sucking in itself is not necessarily a cause for concern, but thumb sucking for an extended period of time is.

On this page, we go into more detail about the problems which can be caused by thumb sucking.

Damage to teeth

The most commonly seen side-effect of long-term thumb sucking is damage to teeth. If a child is continually sucking their thumb or fingers while their teeth are developing, there is the risk that their teeth will not grow in correctly – a potentially expensive and time-consuming issue to fix!

Examples of this damage can include an overjet, where the upper teeth protrude at an outward angle, misaligned teeth, jaw pain and even a malformed jaw.

When thumb or finger sucking starts, a baby’s bones are very soft and still forming, so this means that if the soft palate is constantly pushed upward by the thumb or finger it can malform.  Alarmingly, if continued for a long time, the habit can also change the growth of the face and it can cause the collapse of the upper jaw.

Speech problems such as lisping, imprecise pronunciation and thrusting out the tongue when talking can also occur as a result of thumb sucking.

According to the British Orthodontic Society, if the habit stops by the age of seven then the teeth can often correct themselves with normal growth. If the habit continues, then the position of the adult teeth can be permanently affected, and self-correction is less likely to occur. If you notice changes in your child’s baby teeth or are concerned about your child’s thumb sucking, you should consult your dentist or orthodontist.

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Hygiene

Another problem with this habit is that skin can more easily become sore around the mouth or the thumbs and fingers which are being sucked. Sore and moist skin will be more vulnerable to infection, which can, of course, cause even more problems.

This can especially be the case if a child is used to playing outside with their hands – in the garden, for example – and is then placing thumbs and fingers in their mouth. Sadly, bacterial infections can then become increasingly common for children. Not a good situation for either the child or parent!

Emotional – stress, confidence and lack of concentration

Emotional problems can often emerge as a result of long-term thumb sucking. Sadly, in some cases, a child who sucks their thumb may be vulnerable to bullying or teasing by their peers, which can result in a lack of confidence and self-esteem. We also know that children who suck their thumbs can often be seen to “zone out” and lose concentration due to the repetitive nature of thumb sucking.

For many children, the emotional problems will come first – before the thumb sucking. For example, a child may be anxious about a new home, new school or other change in their life. This anxiety will make them seek security and comfort, which can often mean more thumb sucking.

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When does thumb sucking become a problem?

At Thumbsie®, we are always keen to emphasise that it is long-term thumb sucking that is the great cause for concern. Most children stop by the time they are four or five years of age, and this normally happens quite naturally without too much encouragement. Thumb sucking becomes a problem when the child simply cannot break the habit, or they keep sucking in the long-term.

As mentioned, many children will stop naturally. But, unfortunately, a sizeable number will not. There are always solutions, however. And we believe Thumbsie® is one of the very best.

How can I help my child break the thumb sucking habit?

Thumbsies® are thumb and finger guards which are specifically designed to help children stop thumb sucking. They are placed on the appropriate digit and act as a reminder not to suck.

Thumbsies® come in a wide range of designs, five different sizes and are designed to be worn throughout the day and night. Best of all, they are effective, as demonstrated by hundreds of happy parents on Google Reviews and the official endorsement of the Oral Health Foundation.

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