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Most parents might show concern about their children’s pacifier use, finger sucking, or thumb sucking habits and they may wonder whether it is harmful to the child. It is also natural to wonder what may happen to the child if he or she does not stop and what is the right age to quit these habits.
Why does my child thumbsuck?
Sucking is one of the child’s most natural reflexes as they typically start to suck on their fingers and thumbs while they are still in the mother’s womb.
Young children and infants might engage in pacifier use, thumb sucking, and sucking of other fingers or objects as it makes them feel happy, secure, and learn more about the world around them. they help some babies calm themselves and thus, fall asleep easily. But if the child is allowed to continue these habits after the baby teeth start developing, this can cause major problems.
Effects of Thumbsucking and Pacifier use
On the other hand, prolonged thumb sucking and pacifier use can cause issues with the normal growth of the child’s mouth and the baby teeth alignment. It may also result in changes in the child’s roof of the mouth. Children who passively put their thumbs in the mouth have a higher tendency to experience difficulty compared to children who suck their thumbs vigorously. It is common to hear a popping sound when an active thumb sucking child removes the thumb from the mouth and aggressive thumb suckers might even experience problems with the development of their front baby teeth.
Thumb sucking whether aggressive or not, can cause misalignment of the child’s baby teeth and they may create the need for dental work in the long run. Long term effects of pacifier use or thumb sucking beyond ages 5 and 6 years include:
– Increased sensitivity of the roof of the mouth
– Germs from the thumb and its surrounding areas affecting the rest of the body
– The child forming a lisp as constant thumb sucking may influence the positioning of the jaw bone
– The child’s baby teeth being pushed around which may cause the formation of an underbite or an overbite.
Thumbsucking or Pacifiers?
Pacifier use can also affect the teeth in almost the same way that finger sucking and thumb sucking does but it is typically an easier habit to break in comparison. Whenever you offer a pacifier to an infant, always make sure it is clean. It is also ill-advised to dip the pacifier in other substances such as sweeteners, honey, or sugar prior to giving it to the child.
When will my child stop Thumsucking or Pacifier use?
Most children tend to stop thumb sucking or finger sucking habits on their own between ages 2-4 years. This behavior essentially lessens during the said period as the child starts spending more of his or her waking hours exploring and studying their environment.
Some helpful tips on how to stop thumb sucking or Pacifier use at the right time include:
- Positively reinforce your child for not sucking.
- Distracting the child with a song or a toy when he or she starts to suck the thumb
- Getting rid of any sources of stress to the child which may cause the child to suck his or her thumb
- Teach the child reasons why he or she cannot continue this thumb sucking habit and even explain the long term effects in a way they can understand
- Avoid punishing or nagging the child for thumb sucking as it can create stress for the child causing him or her to suck the thumb more.
- For an older child, involve him or her in choosing the method of stopping.
- Your dentist can offer encouragement to your child and explain what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop sucking.
- According to American Dental Association, “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. Your dentist or pediatrician may prescribe a bitter medication to coat the thumb”.
At Smile League Dental, your oral health is our priority. Make an appointment at Smile League Dental by calling 8157826243 or visiting https://smileleaguedental.com/contact