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Thumb Sucking: The Damage It Does And How You Can Help

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Parents of young children often know that thumb sucking is an unhealthy act for their child but aren't aware of its true danger. It can cause serious dental health problems that can take a lifetime to fix. That's why parents need to understand this problem and how to deal with it in a safe and effective manner.

Thumb Sucking Is Detrimental To Dental Health

For many children, thumb sucking is likely to be a somewhat passive act that is done for comfort and relaxation. These children are less likely to suffer from severe dental problems than those who very strenuously suck their thumbs. Children who thumb suck regularly are more likely to develop serious dental health problems that could literally change the shape of their face.

A large part of the problem here lies in the fragility of the child's facial muscles and teeth. They are at a point in which they are very susceptible to influence and change. The sucking action on the thumb causes the child to pull their face out of shape regularly and can be a major problem if it isn't dealt with in a proactive way.

Guards Can Help

Children who don't give up thumb sucking or who suck excessively hard may need a guard to prevent damage in their mouth. These guards can be prescribed by a family dentist as a way of preventing children from sucking their thumb while they sleep. Some models fit over a child's thumb and wrist to make it impossible to get the digit in the child's mouth.

Other guard types sit in the mouth and keep the thumb from hitting the top of the mouth. Talking to a family dentist should give parents a good idea of which device would work best for their child's needs. It may take time for some children to adapt, but these guards may help beat their thumb sucking habit quickly and efficiently.

When Damage Has Already Been Done

While guards can help protect a child from heavy thumb sucking, there's a chance that past behavior has already negatively impacted their oral health. In these instances, it may be time to get some serious treatment done by a family dentist. Early interceptive care like this is designed to identify potentially severe dental problems early in a child's life and correct them.

The idea here is that preventing these problems while they are still small will keep them from becoming serious ones in the future. In some instances, surgery may not even be necessary. Retainers and other types of procedures may be all that is needed to correct the dental damage.