Children often develop habits that will not carry over into adulthood. However, one common trend that happens in childhood could have more long-lasting effects than originally anticipated: thumb sucking. Toddlers can get into this habit while teething, or perhaps even younger, and if your child does this for too long, it could have negative outcomes for his or her oral development.

While many dental experts agree that the sucking will not affect baby teeth, once permanent teeth start to grow in, it is important to help your son or daughter kick the habit. Especially if he or she is already undergoing orthodontic treatment, sucking the thumb could cause long-lasting damage.

For example, the constant pushing on the roof of one's mouth might force an abnormal alignment of the teeth. Additionally, buck teeth could be formed when the pressure from the thumb moves top teeth out and away from one another. When kids already have braces, thumb sucking could hinder any orthodontic progress, which is why it is important to help them  stop this behavior as soon as possible.

However, don't make it a confrontation. Talk to your child and ensure that he or she understands that you are there to help. Asking if his or her childhood idols – such as TV show or book characters – would suck their thumbs could be a gentler approach. Never put bad tasting things on thumbs as discouragement, as this will generally not have a positive effect.

Talking with your New York City orthodontist can help you find the best way to broach the topic of thumb sucking with your son or daughter, but it is important to do it sooner rather than later. Then, your child can be well on his or her way to having a perfect smile.

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