Thumb sucking is a natural reflex for babies that provides security and isn't typically a concern in very young children. However, once a child's permanent teeth come in, thumb sucking can cause damage to the roof of the mouth and the adult teeth coming in.
When Is It A Problem?
Most children stop sucking their thumbs on their own by the time they are 6 or 7 months old or between ages 2 and 4. The American Academy of Pediatrics says treatment should be limited to children who continue thumb sucking after turning 5. A child's permanent teeth usually are beginning to erupt and thumb sucking can begin to affect the shape of the palate (roof of the mouth) as well as the alignment of permanent teeth.
What Can I Do?
Thumb sucking can be a very difficult habit to break. Orthodontics can often provide a solution to thumb sucking by cementing a palatal appliance, often referred to as a thumb guard, that blocks the thumb from resting in the mouth. Treatment with a thumb guard is extremely effective in stopping the behavior.
If you're concerned about the effect of thumb sucking on your child's teeth and palatal development, we would be happy to discuss your concerns during a free consultation!