What To Do About Thumbsucking

If your child sucks their thumb you may be wondering what type of ramifications lie ahead with general dental health. Thumbsucking is a natural reflex for children. A child will suck on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects to make them feel secure, calm and happy. This sucking process helps them learn about their world. Young children often suck to soothe themselves and help them fall asleep.

It is important to note however that after your child’s permanent teeth come in, sucking may cause problems with proper growth of the mouth and teeth alignment. Thumb and finger sucking can cause changes in the shape and development in roof of the mouth. Use of pacifiers can affect the teeth the same ways as sucking fingers and thumbs; it is however typically an easier habit to break. The intensity of the sucking is a key factor in determining whether or not dental problems may result. When a child rests their thumbs passively in their mouths, they are less likely to have difficulty than those who are vigorous suckers. Aggressive thumbsuckers can even develop problems with their baby teeth.

Typically a majority of children stop sucking between the ages of two and four years old. It is important for a child to stop sucking by the time the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. If you happen to notice changes in your child’s primary teeth, or have questions or concerns about thumbsucking consult Dr. Morris.

Helpful tips to stop thumbsucking in children:

• Praise works: Praise your child for not sucking.
• Help them feel secure: Children often times suck their thumbs when they are feeling insecure or needing comfort. By focusing on correcting the cause of the anxiety you can lessen the desire to suck.
• Get them involved: Involve your child in choosing the method of stopping (works well for older children).
• Ask your dentist to get involved: Dentists can offer encouragement to your child and explain what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop sucking.

If the above mentioned tips don’t work, try bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the thumbsucking hand at night. You can talk to your dentist or child’s doctor about prescribing a bitter medication to coat the thumb or the use of a mouth appliance.

Posted on the behalf of Mitzi Morris, DMD, PC

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