Thumb Sucking can Alter your Child’s Looks

thumb sucking in children

thumb sucking in childrenSan Francisco, Marin, and Oakland, CA

It may look cute when your child sucks their thumb, but this habit actually can have a major negative effect on their teeth and even alter the development of their facial structure. Read on to learn about the dangers of thumb sucking, and how myofunctional therapists in San Francisco at Glen Park Dental can help.

The longer thumb sucking is allowed to continue, the more difficult it is to correct

Most children will outgrow this habit, especially once they reach school age and social pressure likely starts to play a role. If you wait until your child starts school to curtail their thumb sucking, however, significant damage to their facial structure and tooth alignment already may have happened. Remember that baby teeth set the path for permanent teeth, and any deformation or malocclusion of your primary teeth could cause alignment problems as permanent teeth erupt.

How does thumb sucking cause this problem? When a child sucks his or her thumb, it creates a strong force that pushes on the backside of the upper front teeth. The consequences might include an anterior open bite, where front teeth don’t come together, but molars do; a crossbite, where the front teeth have an overbite while the molars have an underbite; or an anterior excessive overjet, defined as a deep overbite where the top teeth significantly overhang the bottom teeth.

Other ramifications of thumb sucking include a diminished airway, narrow dental arches or jaws, changes to the breathing pattern, difficulty swallowing, improper position of teeth, speech impediments or problems developing speech, abnormal resting position of the tongue, and even changes to the shape of the face as it grows and develops. But, it isn’t just your child’s looks that may be of concern in these instances.

Changing the position of the tongue is one of the most significant consequences of thumb sucking

As your child grows, the tongue plays a crucial role in the development of his or her dental arches. If the tongue does not have enough room in the mouth when at rest, it can slide back into the airway, causing an obstruction that can lead to the development of a sleep breathing disorder such as sleep apnea. Symptoms of poor breathing at night may include loud snoring, sleeping with the mouth open, bedwetting, frequent daytime fatigue, and restless leg syndrome. Therefore, proper resting position of the tongue – gently resting against the roof of the mouth with lips closed, is essential for your child’s health, and growth and development.

In children, the symptoms of sleep apnea often mimic those of a hyperactivity disorder such as ADD or ADHD. If your child has been diagnosed with one of these disorders, but you see no differences in their behavior despite seeking treatment, then a sleep breathing disorder actually could be the cause of the behavioral problems, and the behavior will not change until treatment is sought for the airway issue disrupting your child’s sleep.

Myofunctional therapy in San Francisco

Myofunctional therapy has proven successful in treating an assortment of orofacial problems, including the correction of problems that develop after thumb sucking. This therapy consists of a series of simple exercises that work the muscles of the mouth and face, in combination with the tongue. Performed regularly over time, these exercises can reverse the effects of thumb sucking while also encouraging the ideal oral resting posture: with lips together, teeth together, and the tongue resting gently against the upper palate. To learn more about how we use myofunctional therapy to help our patients at Glen Park Dental, call (415) 585-1500 to schedule a consultation with our certified myofunctional therapist in the San Francisco area.

Glen Park Dental serves patients in the areas of Marin, Oakland, and San Francisco, California.

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