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How does thumb sucking affect my child?

Thumb sucking is a natural reflex.

And infants and young children may use thumbs, fingers, pacifiers and other objects to make them feel secure, comforted or happy since thumb sucking is relaxing, it may also induce sleep.

However thumb sucking that persists beyond the eruption of the permanent teeth can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and tooth alignment. How intensely a child sucks on fingers or thumbs will determine whether or not dental problems may result. Children who rest their thumbs passively in their mouths are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs.

Ideally children should cease thumb sucking by the time their permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. Typically, children stop between the ages of two and four as peer pressure causes many school-aged children to stop.

Pacifiers can affect the teeth essentially the same way as sucking fingers and thumbs. Typically, use of the pacifier can be controlled and modified more easily than the thumb or finger habit. If you have concerns about thumb sucking or use of a pacifier, consult your dentist.

Your dentist can assist you, as needed, to encourage your child to stop sucking and explain what could happen to their teeth if they continue.

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