Pleasanton Star Dental | Dentist in Pleasanton, CA

THUMB SUCKING: ADDRESSING ORAL HABITS IN CHILDREN AT PLEASANTON STAR DENTAL

THUMB SUCKING

Thumb sucking is a prevalent comforting behavior among infants, with an estimated 75% to 95% engaging in this habit at some point. It’s a natural reflex that provides comfort and security to young children. At Pleasanton Star Dental, we understand that in most cases, thumb sucking is not a cause for concern and is a habit that children typically outgrow on their own. However, we advise parents and caregivers to monitor this behavior as their child develops. Prolonged thumb sucking can sometimes lead to dental issues, such as misalignment of teeth or changes in the roof of the mouth. Our team is here to provide guidance on how to gently and effectively manage this habit, ensuring it doesn’t negatively impact your child’s oral development. We’re committed to supporting families in nurturing healthy oral habits from an early age, setting the foundation for a lifetime of good dental health.

IS THUMB SUCKING NORMAL

Thumb/ finger sucking starts very early on. Some babies have even been caught sucking their thumbs inside the womb. It’s a natural instinct that tends to bring comfort to infants and children. The relaxing effect is why it’s so common in little ones, especially when they are trying to rest. 

The American Dental Associations states that most children grow out of thumb sucking between the ages of two and four on their own with no necessary intervention. The habit simply stops being as useful as children get older, so they begin relying on it less and less. The older a child gets, the more likely they are to end the habit. This isn’t always the case, however. Some children struggle to let go of this habit, and once permanent teeth start to come in, it may be time to take action.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN THUMB SUCKING

The first thing to look out for is how much pressure is being put on the mouth or teeth. If the thumb is passively in their mouth, they are less likely to cause damage than if they are applying pressure to the inside of their mouth. Pressure on the teeth can cause damage to alignment and proper mouth development which can change the shape of your child’s face. This will need to be corrected later in life with orthodontic treatment. 

If you notice signs that your child’s thumb sucking is causing issues, give us a call or schedule a visit so we can address the issue before it leads to damage.

HOW CAN I HELP MY CHILD QUIT THUMB SUCKING?

If your dentist has suggested you help your child quit thumb sucking, or if they are getting permanent teeth and struggling to let go of their habit, follow these guidelines:

  1. Be positive. Children do better with positive reinforcement. Instead of punishing, offer praise and encouragement when they aren’t sucking their thumb.
  2. Help them remember to keep their thumb out of their mouth by putting a bandit or a sock/ glove on their hand at night when they are more likely to suck their thumb subconsciously.
  3. Some children do well with a progress chart. Let your child add a sticker for every day that they don’t suck their thumb. After a successful week, you can let them choose a prize. After a month you can offer a bigger prize and the habit should be over if they received a sticker every day.
  4. Notice when your child is most likely to suck their thumb. If you notice your child sucking when they are anxious, focus on eliminating the source.
  5. If you notice thumb sucking is most common on long car rides or during movies, try to find distractions.
  6.  Depending on your child’s age, they may benefit from hearing why they need to stop sucking their thumb. Explain why it is important to break the habit.
 

Remember, thumb sucking is a form of soothing for children. Breaking the habit can be difficult and they need your positive support and understanding to learn to feel relaxed without sucking their thumb.

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