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There are many children who suck their thumbs or other objects, such as a pacifier, because it is a natural, soothing reflex. In fact, many babies begin to suck their thumbs while they are still in utero. It can help them calm down and fall asleep, but how does it affect their oral development? 

When permanent teeth begin to emerge, thumb sucking can hinder proper growth and alignment of a child's teeth. In addition, it can also cause changes to the roof of his or her mouth. Although pacifiers can be an easier habit to break because they can be taken away, they can still cause developmental problems and damage to your child's teeth. 

One factor that can influence the development of your child's teeth is the intensity of sucking. When a child passively rests his or her thumb in their mouth, it probably won't lead to problems that could occur if he or she vigorously sucks their thumbs after their permanent teeth emerge. However, when children aggressively suck their thumbs before their permanent teeth emerge, it can lead to development problems with their primary teeth. 

When Your Child Should Stop Sucking His or Her Thumb? 
Many children stop sucking their thumbs between the ages of two to four years old, but there are some who stop by the time their permanent teeth erupt. If you are concerned about your child sucking his or her thumb, contact a dentist office in East Los Angeles, such as Gage Dental Care. Dr. Abaian and Dr. Hanookai can answer any questions that you have about your child's oral development. 

Tips on how to Help Your Child Stop Thumb Sucking 
Here are some tips on how you can help your child to stop sucking his or her thumbs: 

  • Give praise when you notice your child not sucking his or her thumbs.
  • Many older children suck their thumbs when they feel insecure. Identify what is causing anxiety and help alleviate it. 
  • Let older children get involved in choosing a method to help him or her stop thumb sucking.

If you are in the East Los Angeles area, Dr. Abaian and Dr. Hanookai can provide your child with encouragement and explain what could happen to his or her teeth if they continue to suck their thumbs. In addition, they can also prescribe a medication, which is bitter to the taste, to put on the thumbs. If needed, a mouth appliance may also be used to help them stop sucking their thumbs. 

If left untreated, thumb sucking can cause misaligned teeth and an overbite, which will eventually lead to the need for braces or other oral devices. If you have any questions about your child's habit, contact the Gage Dental Care serving East Los Angeles.