Many babies, even in their mother’s womb, and into their toddler years, suck their thumbs. Usually, thumb sucking stops between two and four years old. It is a natural reflex, but it can become a problem if it persists past this period. If your child sucks his or her thumb when tired or upset, past the age of four, it is time to help break the habit, since it may lead to serious dental problems.
Here are some of the consequences of prolonged thumb sucking:
– It can push permanent teeth out of their natural position, resulting in “buckteeth”, leading to expensive orthodontic correction.
– the displacement of the front teeth can cause speech problems and turn into a lisp.
– Sucking of thumb and fingers can interfere with the palate growth, leading to problems with chewing and swallowing.
Here are some tips to help your child stop sucking his or her thumb before the bad consequences occur:
– You can provide gentle visual reminders and reinforce the times when he or she doesn’t suck the thumb.
– Sometimes, children suck their thumb unconsciously. You may help by deciding on a cue with your child, to remind him or her, not to suck the thumb. For instance, bringing your own thumb in front of your mouth.
– it is also important to observe what triggers the behavior, as it is a soothing mechanism for anxiety and insecurity. Try to find the causes of these feelings, and provide other means of comfort, such as stuff animals.
– Reinforce the progress with praise and rewards, making the child aware of being the one making the good decision to stop the thumb sucking.
Thumb sucking is natural and soothing for babies, but as they grow older, it can cause serious speech and dental problems. These can only be corrected with expensive braces, surgeries, and speech therapies, so it makes a lot of sense to work with your child on decreasing their dependency on thumb sucking, before it becomes a problem.
If you have more questions or need more advice to help your child, you may consult with your Littleton Dentist, Dr. Greg Herzberg. It is advised to bring children for a routine check-up to Ken Caryl Dentistry, starting at an early age.