Stop Fussing Over Nail-Biting and Thumb-sucking?

pediatric dentist, child dentist, rochester hills, oakland county

It sometimes seems like when children are young they put EVERYTHING in their mouths, from their thumbs, to their nails to that long-forgotten cracker that rolled under the couch! Parents wisely worry about building blocks becoming choking hazards or children picking up germs from that toy they are popping in their mouth right after another child left it behind but is it possible some of these habits provide a benefit to children?

Brushing Teeth

Well, if you have a thumb-sucker or nail-biter, you’ll be happy to hear that there really may be some benefit to these childhood habits. A recent study published this month by the American Academy of Pediatrics finds that these habits could actually prevent allergies. The AAP observed more than 1,000 participants from childhood to adulthood and checked in on them at ages 5, 7, 9 and 11 years old and beyond.

The study found that, by the age of 13, 38% of participants who had frequently bit their nails or sucked their thumb had allergies, whereas 49% of those who didn’t had allergies.

But why? It relates to the hygiene hypothesis that proposes that exposure to oral bacteria in childhood helps teach the immune system not to overact to bacteria. Although it’s not recommended to encourage children to take up these habits, there is no reason to be alarmed if you have a thumb-sucking toddler.

Note: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry advised that thumb-sucking after age 3 could adversely affect dental development so advise your dentist if your child continues to suck their thumb at that age.


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