The eruption of a child’s first primary tooth is a major event for both the child and their parents. The first tooth is significant because it signals the incoming of the rest of the baby teeth, permanent teeth, and wisdom teeth at last. While the baby teeth may start coming in early for some children--before the 6 month mark--and late for others--after 8 months or even past the first birthday--the adult teeth will take quite a lot longer to erupt.
It’s no secret that most, if not all, children will suck their thumb at one point or another during their early years of life. It can be calming and comforting for young children and infants especially, and it may also help babies fall asleep without the use of a pacifier. This behavior can be completely harmless while your child is still young, specifically before they begin to erupt their first teeth. However, the longer this habit persists, there is a higher likelihood for repercussions that can last your child years and not be easily correctable. Here are 4 explanations of these consequences.
1. One of the most obvious consequences of thumb sucking is evident in the appearance of your child’s teeth. Thumb sucking long-term (beyond the eruption of the permanent teeth in particular) can cause your child’s upper teeth to bow outward, giving them a noticeable overbite. This means that when your child’s mouth is closed, the upper teeth and lower teeth won’t touch; the upper teeth essentially “cover” the lower ones, which can lead to the need for orthodontic intervention to correct the issue. For some children, this issue can become even more severe, where headgear is necessary to correct the bite before orthodontics can apply braces.
2. Stemming from this, your child may also develop a speech impediment from sucking on their thumb in childhood. By having their thumb in their mouth a large amount of the time, your child may inadvertently affect the development of their jaw, palate, and teeth, leading to difficulty pronouncing certain words or sounds. Because speech requires the use of different parts of the mouth to create different sounds (placing the tongue in different areas, passing air through the teeth, or altering the shape of the lips), thumb sucking can cause your child to not make these sounds properly, leading to a possible lisp or inability to pronounce sounds that require the tongue and palate, such as “D” and “T” or “S” and “Z.”
3. Children who suck their thumbs publicly, and those with speed impediments, may also face ridicule from their peers at a young age, which can lead to social anxiety and self-esteem issues later in life. While mental health isn’t directly affected by thumb sucking, the chances that your child will face some backlash from peers in school is likely if they continue the behavior into preschool and kindergarten years (or beyond). Your child may become nervous around other kids, or they may become self-conscious and feel bad about themselves because of bullying. A speech impediment, which can last a lifetime, may also carry these consequences beyond school and into their personal or professional lives. Speech impediments are nothing to be ashamed of, but some children may feel undue societal pressure.
4. This may not be a top concern of your child, but the chance of them coming into contact with germs and pathogens from their thumb sucking should be noted for parents. Kids come into contact with all sorts of germs at school, during play, and in public, so curbing this behavior before they pick up something unsavory is an ideal solution to keeping them healthy.
It may not be too surprising to know that your pediatric dentist will be able to answer all of your questions regarding oral care for your infant or young child. Just like a general dentist, a pediatric dentist is certified to work on your teeth and gums, as well as provide medical advice regarding oral health. However, a pediatric dentist is specially equipped to care for younger patients. Pediatric dentists must have an additional 2-3 year residency program that involves care with babies, children, and adolescents, giving them the qualifications necessary to answer questions specific to the growing needs of your child’s oral health.
For new parents, speaking with and taking your child to a pediatric dentist is a wise idea, especially if you’re having questions on what to do for your child’s dental needs and how to handle specific problems pertaining to your child’s teeth. For example, your pediatric dentist will be able to help with issues pertaining to tooth eruption, childhood brushing and flossing methods, orthodontic concerns (but not the administration of braces), and what to do in the case of an emergency.
When your child’s teeth start to erupt, your pediatric dentist will be able to provide you detailed information on how to care for those teeth before the full set comes in and after they have all erupted. If you are concerned that your child’s teeth are coming in late, or have been slow to come in, your pediatric dentist will answer your concerns and offer guidance on what to expect.
Once the teeth have come in, your pediatric dentist can also provide advice on how to care for baby teeth until the permanent ones begin to erupt. If your child happens to lose a permanent tooth, chip one, or otherwise harm them, your pediatric dentist is also skilled in repairing lost or damaged teeth.
You can also get advice on getting your child to break habits that may have long-term effects on their oral health, such as improper brushing/flossing techniques or thumb sucking. These can have adverse consequences, as poor hygiene will eventually lead to tooth decay and plaque buildup, perhaps resulting in cavities or tooth extraction in extreme circumstances. Thumb sucking can lead to a myriad of problems, such as exposure to germs, speech impediments, overbite, and poor relationships with peers (from ridicule or self-esteem issues). Curbing behavior at a young age is essential to long-term well-being, so asking your pediatric dentist for advice on how to break the habit may prove valuable if your child sucks their thumb or isn’t brushing/flossing their teeth properly.
All in all, your pediatric dentist is an amazing resource that all parents should take advantage of for the continued health of their child. Oral health affects all other aspects of one’s life, so keeping the mouth, teeth, and gums happy is essential to keeping one’s body happy. The earlier you reach out to and begin seeing a pediatric dentist, the better off your child will be!
Being a new parent presents many challenges, from feeding to changing to healthcare, and even oral care. There’s a lot to learn, and it’s okay to ask questions along the way. While you may not always be able to turn to a grandparent or partner for advice, you can always turn to a professional for information on your child’s needs. Your child’s pediatric dentist can answer quite a lot for you, and they likely know what you may have questions about. Here are a few questions that might come up on (or before) your first visit to the pediatric dentist.
Most parents, new or repeat, know the difficulties that come along with a teething child. Children can get fussy, have more drool than usual, and may need more attention to ensure they’re comfortable during the teething process. All children have a bit of variance as to when their teeth are supposed to start breaking through the gums, and this is perfectly normal. But how long is this pain supposed to last?
Before taking your child to the dentist for the first time, you may wish to consider whether you should see a pediatric dentist or a general dentist. Not every parent is aware of the differences between pediatric dentists and general dentists, so it’s important to recognize this distinction before finding someone to take care of your child.
For many new parents, the reality of oral care for an infant or toddler, and even beyond these ages into their childhood years, can seem confusing and daunting. You may not know everything about how to take care of a child, especially as a first-time parent trying to do the best for your child. There may be things you don’t realize about childcare, and you might not learn them until you speak to someone with expertise on the subject.