January 19th, 2020
It’s very common for infants to suck their thumbs. They find comfort in the action and it helps them fall asleep. While thumb sucking is natural, it’s a habit that most children stop doing between the ages of six months to four years old. However, there are some children who continue to suck their thumbs beyond that threshold, which can cause severe orthodontic problems.
What Dental Problems Can Be Caused by Thumb Sucking?
Thumb sucking applies pressure to the teeth, gums and jaws over the course of a child’s growth, which could cause lasting damage and development problems. While every child and case is different, thumb sucking can easily lead to the following orthodontic issues.
Constant pressure applied to the top teeth can cause them to protrude, creating an overbite or buck teeth. While not as common, it’s also possible for the lower teeth to protrude due to thumb sucking. In even rarer cases, thumb sucking can move the top and bottom teeth to the point where they don’t meet when the jaws close, creating an open bite.
Due to the bite issues caused by thumb sucking, children may develop speech impediments such as lisps or the inability to properly pronounce the letters D, L, N, S, T and Z. Some of these issues may be corrected with speech therapy, but dental corrections may be necessary in severe cases.
Jaw Developmental Problems
When cases of thumb sucking are particularly prolonged or there is a lot of force being exerted during the act, the jaw may also become damaged or develop abnormally. The most common result of this is a narrowed upper jaw. When the upper jaw develops in a more narrow shape than the bottom, it will create a crossbite.
Are Braces Necessary?
Whether or not San Tan Valley AZ braces will be necessary for your child ultimately depends on how severe the dental problems are and whether or not they can be corrected in other ways such as with extractions or surgery.
There are several factors that affect the odds of such severe dental problems developing that interventions such as braces will be required.
The most impacting factor is how long your child has been sucking their thumb. The longer a child sucks their thumb, the more it affects the natural development of the jaw and teeth. It’s not unheard of for children over the age of ten to still suck their thumbs. It’s best to help your child drop the habit as soon as possible.
The second most important factor is how often your child sucks their thumb. Many children will only suck their thumbs in times of great duress once they’re over the age of two. However, many others will continue to do it constantly over the course of nearly every day.
Braces are a common and very effective method of correcting orthodontic issues caused by thumb sucking. However, it is certainly not an inevitability as long as you catch the problems early, stop the habit as soon as possible and help your child maintain healthy dental practices.