We’re supposed to be laid back here in Melbourne. But if you have kids, worrying is job one, to quote a lame Ford ad from a few years back. And if you have very young kids running around, you may be worrying about their teeth and what their thumb sucking is doing to them. Are they sucking their thumb too much? Should they have stopped by now? Are they damaging their teeth?
In the Orlando Sentinel, Peanuts and Linus may have a place, but he’s no role model. Still, you don’t have to worry too much; thumb sucking usually passes before children hit preschool age.
Here’s some information on thumb sucking and its affect on the teeth from the team at Implant Dentistry of Florida.
What is normal thumb sucking?
Thumb sucking is a natural comfort behavior of a child. It usually begins in infancy, but sometimes an ultrasound with show an early thumb sucker in the womb! Thumb sucking can help a child feel secure and happy, and it can be soothing when there is anxiety such as when the child is separated from his or her parents. Thumb sucking or pacifier use can also help a child fall asleep.
How long can it go on?
The question is — when is thumb sucking not providing comfort but harming the teeth? This is no time to be like Linus van Pelt, carrying around a blanket and thumb sucking well into elementary school. The American Dental Association recommends discouraging thumb sucking by the age of four. By this time, prolonged sucking can begin to affect the proper development of your child’s mouth, jaw, and teeth. Continued thumb sucking can cause the permanent teeth to be misaligned, and that only spells the need for orthodontics later on.
If it continues into the five or six-year-old age, the pressure from sucking will lead to changes in the mouth and teeth. The ADA says that the front teeth may begin to jut forward and the child’s bite will begin to open, meaning the upper and lower teeth won’t be able to touch. As the permanent teeth descend, they will start to become misaligned.
So, how do I break the habit?
Usually, the best way to get your kid to stop sucking their thumb is to ignore the behavior. There’s no need to put a couple of drops of Tabasco sauce on their thumb, as you mother told you she did with you! In most cases, kids just stop sucking their thumb one day. They usually start to understand that there is a point where sucking their thumb isn’t cool in certain social situations or when they compare to other kids.
Still, if it endures, try these tricks:
- Offer a pacifier to infants. They are obviously easier to take away.
- Establish a chart and reward system, plotting progress on quitting.
- Encourage and praise all attempts to stop thumb sucking in your child.
If you have any questions about your child and thumb sucking, ask Dr. Brown or Dr. Vaughn by calling (321) 372-7700.