Thumb Sucking, a natural instinct!

Thumb sucking baby

Thumb-sucking is a natural instinct,  most kids suck their thumbs because it’s soothing. When babies suck on for being breast fed or a bottle, it provides comfort. As they grow into toddlers, they continue the sucking habit as a way to soothe themselves when they are tired, bored or anxious. Regardless of whether children use their thumbs, fingers or a pacifier,  sucking helps them feel secure, and placing objects in their mouths enables infants to explore their environment.

Normal thumb-sucking or pacifier use won’t affect young children. Children usually stop on their own after they turn 2, and thumb-sucking is considered safe until the age of 4. Parents need only worry if the child does not stop thumb-sucking by this age, as it can affect both their permanent and baby teeth.

If thumb-sucking is prolonged, your child may develop some of the following dental problems:

Malocclusion — Thumb-sucking can cause a malocclusion (the improper alignment of teeth). Luckily, the problem may correct itself if the child stops early.

Palate Development — The roof of the mouth (the palate), may become malformed as a result of thumb-sucking.

Speech Problems — Children can develop a lisp, have trouble with pronunciation or end up with a tongue thrust.

There is a link between the intensity and length of thumb-sucking and damage done to the teeth: Children who have an aggressive sucking pattern or suck their thumb well beyond the age that most others quit increase their chances of needing the help of an orthodontist.

How to stop the habit?

1.     Talk to your child. Explain what you’re worried about. Kids respond better when they know why they are being told “no.”

2.     Enforce thumb sucking limits. Giving up the thumb all at once isn’t easy for a child.

3.     Provide a replacement coping skill. Like adults, kids find it hard to break habits if they don’t have an alternative way of coping. Consider letting your child have a “lovey” or “fidget” to squeeze when they’re anxious.

4.     Help your child recognize the habit. Not all kids are conscious that they are sucking their thumbs, especially when they’re bored or tired. Pointing it out can help them become more self-aware.

5.     Enlist your dentist’s help. It is always advisable to stop the habit before the permanent teeth come in (or before age 5). If no other choices worked out, a dentist can help explain how sucking their thumb can push those new teeth out of alignment and also there are many appliances which aids to break the habit.

Posted in Blog Tagged with: ,