The link between Thumb Sucking and A lisp

Posted by Sara Baker on

Sucking is one of the natural reflexes in babies. It is therefore common for them to suck their fingers, especially the thumb in search of comfort. This reflex gradually diminishes after the baby is 6 months old the same time weaning starts. Sucking on an object such as the pacifier helps babies to fall asleep. Although sucking stops after their first birthday, so some reasons, some babies are likely to continue sucking their thumb.

If stopped early enough, thumb sucking does not affect the development of their oral muscles, teeth, as well as their speech. On the other hand, if it continues over a long time, say for more than four years, your baby’s teeth are likely to be misaligned.

The thumb creates extra pressure on the front part of the mouth resulting in a condition whereby the top and the bottom teeth fail to meet properly. The result is a gap referred to as an open bite that allows the tongue to protrude forward when speaking, resulting in an interdentally lisp.

Fortunately, the open bite can be corrected once your baby quits sucking their thumb allowing the teeth to continue normal growth and finally close the gap. When the gap finally closes, the tongue will not be able to come forward. When determining whether thumb sucking is affecting your baby’s speech, several factors including their age are considered.
Interdental lisp and lateral lisp

With lateral lisps, air is released from the sides of the tongues instead of through the middle. As a result, pronouncing different characters such as s, ch, and z becomes challenging. This type of lisp can easily be corrected by a speech pathologist.

On the other hand, as indicated above, interdental lisps is as a result of the tongue protruding forward between the baby’s front teeth affecting the sound of certain characters such as s and z. If your baby is suffering from this condition, expect them to have a hard time pronouncing sounds such as d, l, t, ch, sh, and j. Babies usually develop certain sounds upon attaining a certain age. Children as old as 4 and 5 years tend to experience the interdental lisp regardless of whether or not they sucked their thumbs.

There are several reasons why children are likely to develop a lisp. Although thumb sucking is a known risk factor, not all babies who suck their thumbs ultimately develop this condition. In fact, there is still a raging debate on how sucking the thumb leads to interdental lisp and parent must, therefore, be cautious of the advice they get.

If the thumb sucking behavior goes on for a lengthy duration, it is likely to have the tongue in a constant forward and backward movements thus resulting in a tongue thrust swallow pattern. Fortunately, this pattern gradually disappears after the first birthday. If your baby sucks their thumb over a long period, the thrust swallow patter may interfere with their swallowing ability and ultimately their speech.

Without a doubt, thumb sucking is known to result in numerous speech difficulties and should, therefore, be stopped at the earliest time possible.

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