As parents, we always want our children to be safe and happy, so we do everything we can to give them everything they want within reason and make sure they are always out of harm’s way. But there is one issue some children develop that skates under the radar of most parents – thumb sucking.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), thumb sucking, or finger sucking, is a natural reflex that’s seen even during an infant’s development in the womb that can be soothing and may help your child feel secure and happy. The habit may also help to induce sleep, so it isn’t uncommon for toddlers and infants to suck their thumbs as they fall asleep. But when is enough, enough?
The ADA recommends that the best time to start discouraging thumb sucking behavior in children is by the age of four. Not only because they are getting to be school age, but prolonged sucking could affect your child’s developing jaw and teeth and cause permanent teeth to become misaligned. In fact, the constant pressure of the sucking motion will begin to have an effect on the mouth and teeth. The front teeth, for example, may protrude, leading to ‘buck teeth’. The child’s bite may also become open, a dental disorder where the upper and lower front teeth cannot touch. Even worse, thumb sucking will begin to have an effect on the alignment of not only the permanent teeth, but also the secondary ones. In these cases, a general dentist will usually provide a referral to an orthodontist or pediatric dentist. If necessary, the dental professional may prescribe a crib, which is a dental appliance placed in the roof of the mouth to help discourage thumb sucking. The bite will then eventually correct itself if the habit is stopped in time.
The best way to discourage thumb sucking is to ignore the behavior. Once they’re exposed to various social situations, children eventually figure out on their own that this behavior is not typical. If you notice that your child is continuing to rely on thumb sucking, consider these tips to prevent future damage:
- Have your child use a pacifier instead. Sucking on pacifiers is easier to discourage and are also easier to take away.
- Create a chart and reward system to help keep track of your child’s progress for quitting.
- Encourage and praise your child once you see them make an effort to stop.
- Schedule a consultation with your child’s dentist.
Whatever you choose to do to discourage thumb sucking in your child, always remember to use positive reinforcement. It’s been proven that children are more likely to respond to positivity, praise and encouragement. Resorting to criticism and nagging may cause your child to become anxious and worsen the problem.
To set up an appointment, call Dr. Middleton in Riverside, CA at 951-688-3442 or visit www.gmdental.com.
Dr. Middleton proudly accepts patients from Riverside and all surrounding areas.