Extended oral habits such as thumb or finger sucking can affect the development and formation of your child’s facial profile, jaws, and teeth. Although early sucking patterns from nursing are actually helpful for proper jaw and tooth development, extended sucking of the thumb or pacifier can cause severe orthodontic complications later on. Tongue thrusting is a complication that may also occur, which may result in teeth that are jetted out due to the tongue’s inability to swallow properly.
Breaking a thumb-sucking habit can be challenging; and unique depending on the age range of your child. The first method most dentists recommend is a reward-based system that encourages your child to go a set length of time without sucking his or her thumb, and then receiving a pre-determined award if their goal has been achieved. For instance, a 6 year old may really want to go to the zoo, so his parents have a calendar that gets a sticker for every day that he goes without sucking his thumb. If he can make it an entire month, then his parents take him to the zoo. For some children it may be a week and a trip to the ice cream parlor. It’s different depending on the needs of your child.
Sometimes, physical inhibitors need to be in place to prevent the thumb sucking from occurring. Placing socks over the hands works for some kids, but not for others. There are even splints available that can be worn over the thumb, buckling around the hand, that prevent a child from wanting to put it into their mouth. In rare cases, fixed appliances can be placed in the mouth by your dentist.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Brett Gluck, DMD, MS, PC
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