There are a large number of children who suck their thumb, use a pacifier or suck on one or more fingers as a form of comfort. It is important to realize that thumb and pacifier habits are very common in preschool age children. As a parent you should know that sometimes these “comfort” habits can have a negative effect on the development of your child’s teeth and jaws. Thumb sucking does not always lead to future problems but it can.
The three most common problems associated with thumb sucking are overbite, open bite and posterior crossbite. An overbite is the protrusion of your child’s front, upper teeth (Bucky beaver teeth). Thumb sucking can cause shifting of the upper teeth and can even lead to the lower front teeth being pushed backwards. An open bite happens when an opening is made in the front teeth to make room or accommodate your child’s thumb. Thumb sucking is commonly the cause of a posterior crossbite. Posterior crossbite happens when thumb sucking causes constriction in the upper arch of the mouth which results in teeth shifting to one side or another. In some cases teeth are forced inside of the lower arch.
If your child sucks their thumb, there is some good news! If you can help them break the habit prior to the eruption of permanent teeth, problems like overbites often times fix themselves. Unfortunately posterior crossbites do not usually correct themselves without orthodontic intervention.
Building an early and trusted relationship with your child’s dentist can go a long way in helping to break a thumb sucking habit. Family dentist like Dr. Leia Porcaro can give you tips and hints on ways to help your child kick the habit. Sometimes gentle encouragement from a dentist is all your child will need to break their habit; encouragement and a trip to the treat basket! If you have a thumb sucker, early intervention to break the habit is the key to preventing oral and dental problems in the future.