Thumb Sucking – Be Informed
Sucking on a thumb or finger is a completely normal habit that some babies develop even before they’re born. It’s soothing, and it also helps babies make contact with and explore their environment. If sucking habits go on much past the age of 3, however, it’s possible that bite problems may arise.
How Can Thumbsucking Affect My Childs Teeth
Dr. Charchuk and his team at their South Calgary Office see first hand the damage thumb sucking causes after permanent teeth come in. Sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth. It can also cause changes in the roof of the mouth.
Pacifiers can affect the teeth essentially the same ways as sucking fingers and thumbs, but it is often an easier habit to break.The intensity of the sucking is a factor that determines whether or not dental problems may result. If children rest their thumbs passively in their mouths, they are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs. Some aggressive thumbsuckers may develop problems with their baby (primary) teeth.
What is Normal Thumb Sucking Behavior
The majority of children suck a thumb or a finger from a very young age; most even start inside the womb. Sucking is a natural reflex for an infant, and it serves an important purpose. Sucking often provides a sense of security and contentment for a young one. It can also be relaxing, which is why many children suck their thumbs as they fall asleep.
Most children stop thumb-sucking on their own between the ages of two and four. They simply grow out of a habit that is no longer useful to them. However, some children continue sucking beyond the preschool years (although studies show that the older a child gets, the lower the chances of continuing to suck the thumb). If your child is still sucking when permanent teeth start to erupt, it may be time to take action to break the habit.
Help Your Child Break the Habit
Give your child the chance to stop their habit when they are ready. Support and encouragement from parents is important.
Depending on your child’s age and ability, you might like to:
- give lots of encouragement – for example, with a hug or praise to show that they’re doing something good by trying to stop
- use distractions – entertain them with a toy or give them a cuddle to distract them from sucking
- try not to nag – if children feel they are being nagged, they may become angry and continue the habit
- show their progress– give a special outing or a toy if the child goes for a certain period without sucking. You can gradually stretch out the period from one night to a week, and then to 30 days.
- use reminders – give children who suck their thumb or finger a glove to wear as a reminder not to suck. The child must be willing to stop for this to work.
Children can easily drift back to their old habit and it may take some time before the habit is completely broken. Keep trying gently, but firmly. Be patient, as the first few days are usually the worst.
Thumb sucking is just one reason why it’s important to maintain your child’s regular schedule of dental exams, starting from the age of 1 year. At Chinook Mall Family Dental Clinic we can teach you and your child effective oral hygiene techniques, help prevent tooth decay, and generally monitor dental growth and development.