Time for your Child to kick their Thumb Sucking Habit

thumb sucking in childrenSanta Cruz, Scotts Valley CA

Most babies suck their thumbs or fingers. This usually is seen as an endearing or precocious habit that most children have broken by the time they begin school. Did you know, however, that prolonged thumb sucking could cause dental damage? In this blog, your Los Gatos family dentists at Ebrahimian Integrative Dentistry will explain the dangers of thumb sucking and how this habit can jeopardize your child’s teeth.

The longer a child persists in thumb sucking, the harder it is to break the habit

Most babies find and suck their thumb at some point. Many even start this habit while in the womb, and sucking the thumb during infancy can help to strengthen the muscles of the jaw and mouth. Drs. Max and Ariana Ebrahimian recommend that your baby should stop thumb sucking by one year of age. Past that, the habit becomes more of a comforting mechanism than anything. Continuing to suck their thumb or fingers exerts undue force on their orofacial system, which can cause the teeth to tip forward and create a misaligned bite—usually in the form of an overbite or a cross-bite.

Other consequences of thumb sucking include a narrowing of the jaw and palate, a shrunken airway, changes in breathing patterns, difficulty swallowing and hindered speech development. This behavior even can impact the development of the facial structure and jaws, literally changing the shape of your child’s face that results in an unfavorable profile.

Thumb sucking can alter the position and posture of the tongue, leading to significant problems

The tongue is so important in the process of growing wide and healthy dental arches in your child. Having narrow arches can make your child predisposed to developing a sleep breathing disorder such as sleep apnea, which occurs when the airway becomes obstructed—either from a collapse of soft tissue or the tongue sliding back into the airway.

Here’s what to look for if you think your child may have sleep apnea

Symptoms of sleep apnea in children mimic those of a hyperactivity disorder such as ADD or ADHD. If your child has been diagnosed with one of these disorders, and remedies such as medication and therapy are not correcting the behavior, then he or she already may be suffering from sleep apnea. Other signs of a sleep breathing disorder can include snoring, breathing through the mouth during sleep, frequent tossing and turning, chronic daytime fatigue, and diminished performance at school.

Myofunctional therapy in Scotts Valley

Drs. Max and Ariana Ebrahimian are proponents of the mouth-body connection: specifically, the theory that good oral health is crucial to a high level of overall health. As part of this belief, Ebrahimian Integrative Dentistry offers myofunctional therapy. This therapy consists of a series of simple and exercises that work the muscles of the mouth and face, along with the tongue, to correct function of the tongue and the orofacial muscles. Myofunctional therapy can correct the effects of prolonged thumb sucking. Performed with regularity, these exercises usually yield successful results after about six months.

To learn more about myofunctional therapy and its benefits in correcting negative oral habits such as thumb sucking, contact our office at (831) 438-4411 to schedule a consultation.

Ebrahimian Integrative Dentistry is here to serve the oral health needs of patients in the areas of Los Gatos, Santa Cruz, and Scotts Valley in California.