Whether you’re a brand new parent or simply parenting an infant for the first time in a while, you’ve probably been bombarded with advice: “You’ve GOT to breastfeed! You can sleep-train them from day ONE! Acme diapers are the BEST!” The team at Michelle Munoz DDS has no intention of telling you how to raise your little one, but we DO have extensive knowledge of one particular behavior that can affect their teeth well into adulthood: thumbsucking.
But It’s Natural!
If you’ve ever seen a sonogram picture, you may already know that some babies begin to suck their thumbs in utero. It’s only natural for babies to seek ways to self-soothe. New parents are often cautioned against using pacifiers to avoid what is known as “nipple confusion,” which threatens to make breastfeeding more difficult. YOU are the only one who knows what’s best for your child, but as a dental practice, we know a bit about what’s best for their teeth. One thing that is NOT best for their teeth is thumbsucking.
Why It’s Harmful
Thumbsucking is generally harmless for babies ages 0 to 6 months. After that, it has the potential to alter the development of the jaw and the eruption of baby teeth. Once the teeth have come in, thumbsucking can cause upper antierior teeth to protrude. Even if you’re not concerned about the way this may look, protruding front teeth are more likely to be damaged. If you’re thinking that damaged baby teeth are of no consequence, then you’ve got another thing coming.
The way that “adult” teeth erupt is largely determined by the “baby” teeth: Baby teeth that lean to the left will result in adult teeth that lean to the left. Slight misalignments may not affect the appearance of your child’s smile, but it could affect their dental health. How? Protruding front teeth are more likely to be chipped in an accident. An upper palate that has formed around the shape of a tiny thumb may develop into an irregular top palate.
Prevention Is the Key
In the hypothetical situations above, treatment might have ranged from orthodontics to oral surgery. Both could have been complicated by long-term thumbsucking. The resulting conditions could make eating and speaking difficult, even painful. The best course of action is to prevent such things from happening by discouraging thumbsucking in the first place.
Whether you need hints on how to discourage thumbsucking or a semi-annual cleaning and exam, the folks at Michelle Munoz, DDS, have you covered. If you live in or near Uvalde, Texas, contact our office to schedule an appointment