Child Coping with Parental Loss by Sucking Their Thumb? Dental Damage May Result

Very young children should never have to deal with the death of a parent, but this tragedy frequently occurs and is always devastating. In fact, a child may find themselves coping with the resulting mental health issues by sucking their thumb and causing severe dental damage that their surviving parent needs to help them avoid as much as possible.

Early Parent Loss May Cause Severe Complications

Losing your partner has been hard on you emotionally but even worse on the child you two shared. After your child cried when learning about the death and attended the funeral, you've been trying to keep them happy and distracted from their grief. However, this type of early parental loss can trigger a multitude of complications in a child's development.

For example, some children may suffer from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, when they lose a parent. Unfortunately, this problem may manifest itself in a variety of unexpected ways, including a child regressing back to thumb sucking. Thumb-sucking behaviors typically stop when a child reaches a certain point in their emotional development.

Simply put, they no longer need to suck their thumb for emotional support when they are upset. However, the severe shock of losing a parent at such a young age may cause a child to seek out coping techniques that worked in the past, leaving them with a thumb in their mouth at far too late an age.

Dental Damage is a Likely Trouble

Though occasional thumb sucking might not be a big issue in a very young child's life, persistent and obsessive thumb sucking may become a major issue. For example, a child who regularly sucks their thumb—particularly if they regress to this activity later in their preschool age—may cause an overbite that can complicate further oral health development.

Even worse, a child may literally change the shape of their mouth to the point where their speech struggles or they damage their teeth. And while parents can use various techniques to stop thumb sucking, the damage this behavior does can be pretty devastating if not properly assessed and managed right away.

So if you lost a partner and your child is going back to sucking their thumb, please contact a children's dentist right away. These experts will identify the damage done to a child's mouth and will work hard to ensure that it is either halted or reversed as soon as possible.