Childhood Habits that Affect Teeth: Thumb-Sucking and Mouth Breathing

Thumb-sucking and mouth breathing are very common in young children. It’s a source of comfort and a natural thing to do. Most children break the habit on their own, but for some that carry on, it can lead to orthodontic problems.

In this article, we talk about how habits in early childhood, like thumb-sucking and mouth breathing, can cause problems with teeth and how to deal with them.

Childhood Habits that Affect Teeth: Thumb-Sucking and Mouth Breathing

Thumb-sucking and mouth breathing are very common in young children. It’s a source of comfort and a natural thing to do. Most children break the habit on their own, but for some that carry on, it can lead to orthodontic problems.
In this article, we talk about how habits in early childhood, like thumb-sucking and mouth breathing, can cause problems with teeth and how to deal with them.

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Thumb-Sucking and Orthodontic Issues

Thumb-sucking is nothing to worry about when children are little, but it can lead to orthodontic issues if it continues past the age of three.

Two common issues caused by thumb sucking are crooked tooth alignment and incorrect jaw development.

Thumb-sucking exerts constant pressure, causing the upper front teeth to protrude forwards. This can be more pronounced in children who suck their thumbs more aggressively.

An open bite can occur with thumb-sucking. This is where the thumb creates an opening and the upper and lower teeth do not make contact when biting down.

Changes in jaw structure can also arise if children continue to suck their thumb, affecting the way they bite, talk, or even the overall shape of their face. Thumb-sucking can create a cross-bite, where the upper jaw is too narrow and doesn’t match the bottom jaw. An overbite can develop due to growth restrictions in the lower jaw.

Mouth Breathing and Orthodontic Issues

Correct nasal breathing is crucial for oral and facial development. Chronic mouth breathing can cause problems like crowded teeth and a narrow palate.

Mouth breathing is common in children and is often associated with nasal congestion, allergies, enlarged adenoids, and tonsils. Left unresolved, it can lead to teeth misalignment and problems with jaw development. Breathing through the mouth can mean that the tongue doesn’t rest correctly in the palate, so the upper jaw becomes smaller and narrower.

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Prevention and Intervention

Early identification and intervention are important to make sure that thumb-sucking doesn’t lead to bigger orthodontic issues. It’s best to help your child stop the habit before their adult teeth come in.

Try the following tactics to help prevent or discourage thumb-sucking in young children.

Positive reinforcement: Remind your child gently when you see them sucking their thumb. And praise them when they don’t do it.

Thumb protection at night: Wearing a glove or sock over their hand at night can remind them not to suck.

Reward chart: Give your child a sticker each day they don’t suck their thumb. Create a fun reward system for longer periods.

Address the anxiety: If thumb-sucking happens when your child is anxious, focus on alleviating their anxiety. Understand the root cause rather than just the habit.

Be aware of trigger times: Pay attention to the times when your child usually sucks their thumb, such as watching TV. Create diversions or alternative activities during these times.

For mouth breathing: It can be useful to start oral myofunctional therapy with a speech therapist.

Conclusion

It’s good to catch these things early! Orthodontic treatment can only start once thumb-sucking has stopped. Our aim is to inform parents about the issues caused by habits like thumb-sucking and mouth breathing. And we can provide help and guidance to avoid issues with teeth and jaw development.

Talk to us if you are worried about your child’s thumb-sucking or mouth breathing. We can advise the best time to address it.