Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thumbsucking: Rules of Thumb

One of the most asked questions from parents of toddlers is about thumbsucking. Is it harmful? At what age should their child stop? What will happen if the child doesn't stop? These are all very good questions and I hope I can shed a little light on the subject for you! Sucking is of your baby's first reflexes. In infants and young children, it makes them feel secure and happy, soothed, relaxed and most often manifests in older children when they are tired. Prolonged thumbsucking will result in changes to the permanent teeth (alignment and growth) and can cause changes in the roof of the mouth. The intensity of the sucking is a large factor on the amount of changes. Thumbsucking normally ceases between the ages of two and four because during this period the child spends more hours awake and exploring their world. Peer pressure normally causes school-aged children to stop. Tips for helping your child curb the habit: 1) Instead of scolding, praise them when they are not. 2) Remember children often suck their thumbs when they are insecure. Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety. 3) Children who are sucking for comfort will feel less of a need when their parents provide the comfort. 4) Your dentist can encourage children to stop sucking and explain what could happen if they continue. 5) If these approaches are failing, reming the children of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the had at night. I have a one year old toddler who currently sucks her thumb and cringe everytime I see it go in her mouth as a dentist. But, I also know from my years in practice that children rarely carry the habit beyond 4 years of age. Good Luck!

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