Thumb Sucking in Children

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

Your Bay Area dentists at Glen Park Dental now offer services to treat negative oral behaviors such as excessive thumb sucking.

While thumb sucking is a natural instinct for babies and toddlers, it often ends up becoming a habit that is difficult to break. Babies typically suck on their thumbs, fingers, or pacifiers to help soothe themselves or while going to sleep.

However, there comes a time when these habits need to cease, and when they don’t, your child may develop oral health concerns that affect their development leading to problems such as:

  • Misaligned teeth
  • Elongated facial development
  • Mouth breathing
  • Protruding teeth (buck teeth)
  • Gapped front teeth
  • Narrow upper dental palate
  • Improper resting position of the tongue
  • Lip impotence
  • Narrow airway
  • Sleep apnea

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry advises parents and caregivers to help their child end these habits no later than one year of age. However, anyone who has a child knows how difficult it can be to get their child to quit sucking their thumb or pacifier.

Here are some tips to help your child give up these habits:

  • Children often suck their thumbs when they feel insecure or anxious about something. Try to redirect their focus to something that makes them happy, like playing a game or reading a book to help calm them down.
  • Praise your child when they do not suck their thumb.
  • Lightly bandage the thumbs or put a sock over their hands at night.

Once your child ceases their sucking habit, he or she may need an evaluation to see if an orofacial myofunctional disorder (OMD) exists. An untreated OMD could hinder their speech or facial and oral development.

How we treat effects of thumb sucking

At Glen Park Dental, we prefer myofunctional therapy as a way to help reverse the effects of thumb sucking. Here is how myofunctional therapy can help a child who is suffering from the effects of this OMD.

When excessive thumb sucking occurs, it can interfere with the child’s development, especially the mouth and face. This means that a narrow dental arch can form as a result of the constant pressure placed on the roof of the mouth by the thumb or pacifier. To correct this issue, a series of specially designed exercises known as myofunctional therapy can help to retrain the muscles of the mouth, tongue, and face to function properly when at rest, swallowing, and breathing.

It is possible that in some cases further treatment may be needed to help straighten teeth or expand the dental arches. A thorough assessment of your child’s oral health and development early in life is best in treating these type of concerns. It is advised that each child receive an evaluation for an OMD, and the earlier, the better.

Myofunctional Therapy in San Francisco

Ready to learn more about myofunctional therapy or how to help treat your child’s thumb sucking problem? Contact the office of Glen Park Dental by calling (415) 585-1500 to schedule a consultation.

Glen Park Dental provides comprehensive, compassionate, quality oral health care for patients in the areas of Marin, Oakland, and San Francisco, California.