From the moment they first discover their fingers and toes (consciously or not), many babies have a fascination with sucking their thumbs!
Thumbsucking is a natural reflex for children. Sucking on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers, or other objects may make babies feel secure and happy and help them learn about their world. Young children may also suck to soothe themselves and help them fall asleep.
How can thumbsucking affect yout child’s teeth?
Thumb sucking doesn’t have many adverse effects in children with baby teeth. However, once permanent teeth come in, thumb-sucking may cause problems with tooth alignment.
- Misaligned teeth: Thumb sucking can create problems with the proper alignment of teeth, causing conditions such as an overbite to occur.The upper and lower teeth may also begin to slant outward. This is known as an anterior open bite. During vigorous thumb sucking, the cheek muscles flex. This may work to alter jaw shape and cause crossbite, another type of tooth misalignment. Changes to jaw shape can also affect facial appearance.
- Changes to the roof of the mouth: Thumb sucking can cause the roof of the mouth to indent and become concave. The roof of the mouth may also become more sensitive to touch and sensation. Some adjucent treatments might be needed too, such as Myofunctional therapy (to overcome improper tongue movements).
- Oral infection: Without vigilant hand washing, thumb sucking may introduce dirt and bacteria into the mouth, potentially causing an infection in a tooth or in the gums.
- Problems with the thumb: Vigorous or long-term thumb sucking can change the shape of the thumb, making it thinner or elongated.
- Difficulties with speech: The dental problems caused by thumb sucking can result in speech problems, such as lisping and other speech impediments, including an inability to pronounce hard consonant sounds like “D” and “T”.
When do children stop sucking their thumbs?
According to the American dental association, if it continues beyond the age of 3 or 4, it can have a negative effect on developing teeth and jaw. Children usually stop sucking between the ages of two and four years old, or by the time the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt.
Prolonged thumb sucking can lead to serious dental speech problems. Research shows that greater than 60% of 10-years-old thumb suckers have a serious misalignment of their teeth.
How can I help my child stop thumbsucking?
- Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure or needing comfort. Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety and provide comfort to your child.
- For an older child, involve him or her in choosing the method of stopping.
Open up a dialogue
Some kids just don’t realize that sucking their thumb is a habit they should outgrow. Ask your child — in a curious rather than condemning way, of course — why they suck their thumb. Does it feel good? Do they even know they’re doing it? Is there something else they can do (like hugging a lovey or counting slowly to three) that will make them feel just as good?
Learn about thumb sucking together
If your child gets most of their super starts Peppa Pig, or Paw Patrol, you might want to tap that resource. Watch a TV show where a character has to break a habit and then talk with your child about doing the same.
- Daniel Tiger: Life’s Little Lessons | PBS KIDS
- Thumbs Up, Brown Bear
- I Can Do It — I Don’t Need My Thumb.
Try role playing
If your child has a favorite stuffed animal or toy, use it to your advantage! Pretend that Teddy wants to stop sucking his thumb. Ask your child if they can help Teddy by setting a good example and offering suggestions.
If these tips don’t work, remind the child of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night.
It takes 21 days to break a habit! If you do a calendar for every day they don’t suck their thumb you put a little sticker on there, let’s say after 3 days they get a little reward, they feel they got somewhere, they get to a week a little bigger reward, by the time you get to 3 weeks, 21 days you are usually out of the woods 😊
Plaster: Can cover the finger they suck the most
Thumb guard: it sleeps on the thumb and wraps around with a little plastic cover that can be changed every day, it can be clean with salt and water so can change every day, also doesn’t interfere with their writing or eating cause you still have the mobility at the thumb joint.
Hopefully this has been helpful today, thank you for the questions and comments. keep on coming, I love to hear about your experiences and tips you share in the comment section down below can help another people😊