3-5 years

Thumb-sucking, teeth-grinding and injuries to teeth are common in preschoolers. If you’re concerned about any of these teeth issues, speak to your dentist.

Thumb-sucking

Sucking thumbs or fingers is a natural reflex in babies and young children. Most children grow out of sucking their thumbs or fingers around 2-4 years of age.

Vigorous finger-sucking (that’s when you can hear a popping sound when a child takes his thumb or fingers out of his mouth) and sucking that goes on over many years can affect the growth of a child’s jaws and the way his teeth line up. It might cause dental problems if it keeps going when adult teeth start to come through.

If you’re concerned about your child’s thumb-sucking and finger-sucking habits, talk to your dentist.

Children are more likely to suck their thumbs or fingers when they’re tired, stressed or hungry.

Teeth-grinding

Teeth-grinding in preschoolers is pretty common and doesn’t usually need treatment.

Some children clench their jaws quite firmly, and others grind their teeth so hard that it makes a noise. Some children grind their teeth during sleep. Often, they don’t wake up when they do it – but other people do!

Most of the time, teeth-grinding doesn’t last and doesn’t cause damage to your child’s teeth. But if it does keep going, you might want to talk to a dentist. It could lead to your child having headaches and tooth or jaw pain, or wearing down her teeth.

Injuries to teeth

Injuries to your preschooler’s face and teeth can happen when he’s running, climbing, riding scooters and bikes and so on. It’s a good idea to see a doctor or dentist if your child damages his teeth or face, especially if a tooth turns black or purple.

If your child knocks out a baby tooth, don’t try to put it back in, because this can cause problems later on when the adult tooth starts to come through.

Losing a baby tooth before it’s ready to come out usually isn’t a serious dental problem, but it’s important that you take your child to the dentist immediately for a check-up. Seeing the dentist and knowing that an adult tooth will eventually fill the space – and that any pain or tenderness will soon go – can help reassure you and your child.

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Last updated or reviewed
15-12-2015

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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