Friday, October 11, 2019

Kicking the Thumb-sucking Habit

Kicking the Thumb-sucking Habit

Thumb-sucking is a common way for infants and very young children to soothe themselves when they feel anxious or stressful. Most children abandon the habit once they develop the ability to speak and voice their anxieties. However, for many children, the habit is not so easily abandoned; for them, the risk of developing dental problems such as overbite or jaw malformation is strong.

Although it was once believed that, until the emergence of permanent teeth, thumb-sucking caused no damage, experts now think that the negative effects of thumb-sucking can begin as early as age 2 or 3. If your child refuses to give up the thumb as he or she ages, there are some steps you can take to help your child kick the habit:
  • Praise your child or offer simple rewards when he or she does not suck his or her thumb for a specified period of time, increasing the time period as the child shows repeated success.
  • Remove the thumb from the child’s mouth after he or she falls asleep.
  • Talk to your child about the habit and about the importance of stopping; be supportive and calm instead of scolding or threatening.
  • Help your child become aware of the habit by calmly pointing out when he or she is thumb-sucking. Many children lack self-awareness at this age, and gentle reminders can help them recognize the habit and find other ways to cope (like hugging a stuffed animal, for instance).
  • Remind your child in a positive way that he or she is growing up; point to older role models (cartoon figures are fine) who do not suck their thumbs.
  • Avoid stop-gap measures, like foul-tasting liquids or mittens to prevent thumb-sucking, because these can actually increase a child’s anxiety. If needed, we can create a mouthguard or night guard that can help children quit the habit.
  • For children who are ready to quit, use a plastic bandage on the finger as a reminder not to suck.
  • Finally, don’t panic. Your anxiety will be picked up by your child and may cause him or her to increase the habit to alleviate increased anxiety.

If your child displays aggressive or long-term thumb-sucking habits, bring him or her to KiDDS Dental for an evaluation. Dr. Jared and his clinical team can give you a better understanding of how your child's thumb-sucking is affecting his or her dental development, and we can assess the possible need for dental braces or other orthodontic treatments in the future.

Call us to schedule an appointment today!  509-891-7070.

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