dentist San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo dentist answers the question ‘Is thumb sucking a bad thing?’

-“Thumb sucking is normally nothing for parents to worry about for kids under 4 years old,” says Douglas Ng, DDS, of San Luis Obispo Family Dentistry. It’s a natural reflex to nursing, rarely causes problems and most kids give it up on their own by the age of 4; one in five may continue until around age 5.

Ng has recently released some tips to help parents know when it’s time to help their child stop. Because infants get both nutrition and comfort when nursing, it’s natural for a toddler to associate sucking on his or her thumb or a pacifier with comfort.

Stressful events in the family, moving to a new home, starting school, or even a new little brother or sister can cause children to start thumb-sucking after they have stopped the habit. Restarting the habit is rarely something for parents to worry about. Most will stop on their own fairly quickly.

“Any parent who is concerned about their child’s thumb-sucking habit should talk with their dentist or pediatrician,” says the San Luis Obispo dentist. Continuing thumb sucking past 4 or 5 can contribute to dental problems, especially when permanent teeth start growing in. Getting regular dental examinations from a very young age can quickly identify changes in the child’s mouth that may become problems. The dentist can recommend the best corrective approach.

Some of the most common problems that be caused by prolonged thumb sucking or even long-term use of the pacifier include:

  • Problems with tooth alignment leading to an overbite or underbite
  • Contributing to lisping, speaking, and chewing issues
  • Contribute to protruding teeth that are more likely to chip or break, or damage the inside of the mouth
  • Change the shape of the jaw or roof of the mouth
  • More exposure to germs
  • Aggressive thumb sucking may contribute to dental problems even in children under 5 years old
  • Aggressive thumb sucking can also irritate the thumbs or fingers leading to sores and infection

Helping a child break the habit doesn’t have to be a traumatic battle. “Distraction is the easiest way to change the behavior,” says the San Luis Obispo dentist.

  • Read a story
  • Play a game or do some kind of art project that keeps the child’s hands and mind busy
  • When the child is feeling stress for any reason, comfort your child and remove or change the cause of stress
  • Older children can participate in stopping their habit by choosing methods for stopping
  • Rely on help and encouragement from the family dentist
  • Praise for not sucking the thumb or pacifier
  • Praise yourself for being calm and caring

Dr. Ng has been helping Central Coast families with their dental needs and oral health since 2008. A California native from Southern California, he graduated with honors as a Regent Scholar from the University of California and then received his DDS from Loma Linda University School of Dentistry. His dental office supports local schools and Dr. Ng is active with Easter Seals, often traveling overseas to provide dental care to underserved areas.

Douglas NG, D.D.S. Family Dentistry
862 Meinecke Ave #203
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
(805) 544-1246