Thumb Sucking

August 2019
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Thumb Sucking

Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is a common habit with small children. What starts as a cute habit has the potential to grow into a cause for major deformation of the jaw bones and of tooth structure. Not only does the child run the risk of developing buck teeth, he also faces a possibility of lisping and other speech disorders.

In this article, we take a look at the problems that prolonged thumb sucking can lead to and how to avoid or correct them.

How Does It Start?

Sucking a thumb may start off as a replacement for the pacifier or the feeding bottle and slowly develop into a dependence, where the child uses its fingers, a thumb or other objects to calm themselves.

Over time, this tends to displace the teeth from their natural position and causes a number of disorders of the teeth.

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A prominent problem associated with sucking thumbs is the development of buck teeth. In extreme cases this could even lead to an anterior open bite. In this condition, the misalignment of the teeth becomes so large that the front teeth of the lower and upper jaw do not touch even if the jaw is closed.

Under these conditions, the patient could experience problems in speaking for which he may need to undergo corrective surgery of the teeth and extensive speech therapy.

Yet another problem which is not genetic in nature but is caused by the patient himself is tongue thrusting. Often, out of habit, or due to a condition called tempromandibular joint disorder (TMJ), the patient uses his tongue to separate the teeth.

This eases the immediate problem but has an additional side effect wherein the alignment of the teeth is disturbed. The resultant effects are very similar to those associated with thumb sucking often occur.

Discouraging Thumb Sucking

What should parents do to stop thumb sucking? They can try to gently discourage the child and distract him from doing this by providing other activities that attract him. Often the problem is psychological and the child sucks his thumb for security or when he is confused.