Parenting Tip: Preventing And Ending Thumb Sucking

Understanding the Root of the Problem
Thumb sucking is a very normal action and is even a natural urge for babies and small children. At a young age children suck their thumbs to self-soothe. Because this action is so soothing to infants, it often becomes a used in response to any unpleasant situation/sensation such as:

• Tiredness
• Stress
• Boredom

Generally Temporary
Statistically most children stop sucking after six months of age, but this habit can continue to children as old as four without serious consequences. In fact most pediatricians recommend ignoring this habit while children are in the preschool age. However, once age four is reached thumb-sucking invites serious dental and speech problems.

Negative Side effects of Extended Thumb Sucking
When examining patients that regularly suck their thumbs after the age of four it has become apparent that this prolonged activity causes malocclusion. Malocclusion is a term used to describe teeth that are pushed slightly outward and are not properly aligned. The longer the child continues to suck his or her thumb the more likely orthodontic treatment will be required.

Not only does thumb sucking pose a dental hazard it can also introduce speech problems. Children who constantly suck their thumbs from age four and higher have demonstrated a high rate of lisping as well as mispronouncing the letters ‘D’ and ‘T’. In addition to speech problems, thumb –sucking can also bring emotional drawbacks when the child is teased or shamed for this habit in school. So what actions can one take to prevent or treat the thumb-sucking habit?

Replacing and Deterring: Two Keys to Treating and preventing Thumb-Sucking
Parents and caretakers can start by replacing the thumb with a pacifier at a young age. Most parents agree that it is much easier to wean a child off a pacifier than it is the thumb. Additionally, pacifiers today come designed to prevent orthodontic problems. Another option is to deter the child from sucking. These methods include:

• Coating thumb with a bitter tasting substance
• Placing tape as reminder
• Using Special gloves

Thumb sucking gloves are affordable, allow full hand movement and at the same time cover the thumb and, when used in conjunction with a reward system, have proven very effective.

Going Beyond Home Remedies: The importance of seeking professional help when necessary
If none of these steps prove to be effective, find a local dentist and set up an appointment. Today specially designed retainers will prevent the child’s thumb from pushing against the roof of the moth and thereby damaging the teeth. While this trip may be intimidating, the consequences of avoiding treatment are to be feared much more. With perseverance and the right information one can effectively prevent /treat the thumb-sucking habit.

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Monarch Dental specializes in pediatric dentistry and preventative treatments for children’s thumb sucking.

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