• 06 JAN 16
    • 0
    Breaking the Thumb Sucking Habit

    Breaking the Thumb Sucking Habit

    We’ve all seen it before: A little baby falling asleep while sucking his thumb. It’s so darned cute we want to take a picture. Fast-forward a few years, however, and the habit that was once so cute is now a potential dental nightmare. While normal, and harmless for babies, thumb sucking can do serious damage to an older child’s mouth. If your child has a thumb sucking habit that she just can’t seem to quit, Dr. Kimmy wants to offer tips to help. If you have any questions, or would like to offer a tip that has worked for you, call our Manhasset, NY dental office at (516) 365-4-KID today.

    How Thumb Sucking Affects Your Child’s Health

    Thumb sucking is natural for infants and toddlers, and has even been observed in the womb. Sucking on thumbs, fingers, or a pacifier make babies feel secure and comfortable. For many children, it is a soothing activity that helps them fall asleep. Most doctors agree that thumb sucking is harmless for small children, and many tend to give up the habit between the ages of two and four, before their permanent teeth develop. The children who continue sucking their thumbs past this age are at risk for dental problems.

    Once permanent teeth start coming in, a thumb sucking habit can cause several dental problems. The habit may cause damage to the roof of the mouth. It can contribute to malocclusion, an abnormal alignment of the teeth that may require treatment with orthodontics. Another common issue is buck teeth. This problem arises when the pressure from thumb sucking pushes the top teeth out and apart. Finally, children may develop a speech impediment, such as a lisp, as a result of thumb sucking. The extent of the damage caused by the habit depends on the intensity with which the child sucks her thumb. A child who sucks her thumb forcefully all the time will have a much greater chance of dental damage than one who occasionally places her thumb in her mouth, with little or no sucking.

    Breaking the Habit

    For children who suck their thumbs when they reach school age, peer pressure may break the habit. This presents its own unique problem, as relentless teasing may affect a child emotionally. Fortunately, you can do to some things to help your child stop her bad habit. Here are a few examples:

    • Use positive reinforcement – Don’t chastise your children for thumb sucking. Instead, reward them with praise when they don’t do it. Rewards can include a simple sticker or an extra story before bed.
    • Find the root cause – Many children suck their thumbs in response to stress or fear. Try to find out what your child is stressed about, and offer reassurance in the form of a hug or comforting words. You can also try giving her a new stuffed animal that she can squeeze when she feels scared or stressed.
    • Cover the thumb – While some doctors see this as a last resort, it can be very effective. Bandaging the thumb, or putting a sock or mitten over it, makes thumb sucking cumbersome and unpleasant. The drawback is that children may simply remove the barrier.
    • Talk to the dentist – If you have trouble, bring your child in to visit Dr. Kimmy. In addition to offering you advice, she can talk to your child about the problems thumb sucking causes. It is often helpful for children to hear this information from someone other than their parents.

    Call for More Information

    We want to help you keep your child healthy. If you need further information regarding thumb sucking and how to stop it, contact our Manhasset children’s dental office today.

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