Mommy's Time Out Magazine Mommy's Time Out Magazine - Page 21

Baby Teeth 411

- Dr. Maribel Santos-Cordero

Board Certified Dentist

Dentistry for Children and adolescents

What Parents Need To Know About

Thumb Sucking

Thumb Sucking is normal – Up to a certain point

It is a common habit during childhood. If your

infant develops a thumb sucking habit, remember, it is completely normal. Some children even begin sucking their thumb in the womb! It’s a natural reflex for babies and provides them with a sense of security and comfort.

In most cases, as the baby grows and begins to explore the world around them, thumb sucking will gradually decrease and disappear on its own, usually between the ages of two and four. Past the age of three, however, thumb sucking should be discouraged. The reason for this is that prolonged sucking can negatively impact your child’s developing teeth.

Older children tend suck their thumbs when they are tired, worried or bored. The intensity and frequency of thumb sucking often determines whether or not dental problems may result. Aggressive thumb sucking may cause the teeth to grow out of alignment. An open bite is caused by a reshaping of the palate due to vigorous pressure. Open bites can create problems with chewing, swallowing and speech development as the tongue finds itself in poor placement. In children younger than three years old, there is a better chance to see an open bite close on its own as the habit stops.

If your child’s thumb sucking habit persists, recognize when it occurs. Is it an absentminded habit or do they suck when they are anxious, stressed or nervous? The method you use to help break your child’s sucking habit may depend on the reason behind it.

Here are some general tips to help your child break the habit:

Explain - If your child is old enough, help him understand the consequences of thumb sucking and why they need to stop.

Make your child an active participant - Help your child come up with their own goals and prevention strategies. They will be more likely to keep their own goals.

Take note - Observe times they are more prone to sucking, if any, and try to create diversions.

Use positive reinforcement - Offer encouragement and support instead of punishments.

Make a progress chart - Help your child see their progress and reward them with a prize at the end of each week and/or month. Have your child be the one to place stickers on the chart and choose the prize.

Involve Your Dentist

If none of these methods work, you can seek professional help. Your pediatric dentist can provide advice, support, and if necessary, further treatment options to help your child stop sucking their thumb or finger.