Thumb Sucking

Thumb SuckingThe sight of a baby sucking on his or her thumb or finger can be cute to onlookers.

Many babies develop this completely normal habit even before birth, as they find it soothing. However, continuing to suck the thumb after the age of three can bring about problems with development of the teeth and mouth.

But what affect does thumb-sucking actually have on the teeth and mouth? And how can you help your child to break free of this potentially damaging habit?

How Sucking Affects the Bite

In a normal bite, your child’s upper teeth should grow to overlap the lower teeth. But when a child continues to suck the thumb, fingers, or pacifier, any of these could place abnormal pressure on the gums. This pressure may hinder teeth from erupting properly, and can even influence jaw bone growth.

In some cases, thumb-suckers develop an “open bite”, i.e., the teeth don’t create the natural overlap when the child bites together.

Breaking Free

Since most children break free of finger-sucking habits on their own between the ages of 2 and 4, many parents prefer a conservative approach to intervention. If it appears that the child won’t stop the habit alone, you might try the following methods:

  • Reward: Explain fully to your child why he or she needs to stop the habit. Then, provide rewards for progress. Simple rewards (like stickers or a favorite activity) seem to work well. When you notice the thumb return to the mouth, avoid scolding the child; instead, offer a gentle reminder. And when the child removes the thumb from his or her mouth, don’t forget to offer generous praise.
  • Distract: What triggers your child to suck may be different from other children. Is it stress, or boredom? Keeping the child busy and finding ways to take his or her attention may be all that’s needed.
  • Look for help: A conversation between your child and his or her dentist may help the child understand the importance of stopping the habit. The dentist can also offer special appliances to aid in breaking free of thumb or finger sucking.

Call Us

Is your child finding it difficult to stop sucking his or her thumb or fingers? Help is available. Call the Yuba City Dentistry Group today and we can set up an appointment. Together, we’ll help your child break free of this potentially damaging habit – once and for all!
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