Everything about thumb Sucking and its Impact on Oral Health

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Besides thumbs, children can suck fingers, nipples, and toes due to the therapeutic and soothing experience that the behavior offers. It is also referred to as non-nutritive sucking. Let’s focus on specific factors about the habit.

What is thumb sucking?

Thumb SuckingAround 90 percent of the newborn babies start sucking their thumb or one of the fingers as soon as they are born. It is not contagious and happens to be one of the top five everyday habits seen among children from around the world.

The practice is considered normal, harmless for kids in the 0 to 4 age group, and is regarded as a problem if the child fails to get rid of the habit after reaching the fifth year of age.

What causes thumb sucking? What age do babies start sucking their thumb?

Experts suggest that sucking one of the fingers is a natural reflex that is used by toddlers and babies as a coping mechanism to deal with anxiousness. Babies feel secure, happy, and comfortable when they suck their thumbs. Some of them also suck fingers before going to bed. Surprisingly, the baby develops the habit while inside the womb.

Research has pointed out that kids who use a pacifier or suck their fingers require lesser hospitalization. It also shows positive effects on the baby’s heart beats by re-optimizing the same when he or she is upset.

Why is thumb sucking considered bad for kids above five years of age?

Experts recommend parents to start discouraging kids from the behavior once the child turns four years of age. Sucking thumb beyond this age can negatively impact oral health. It can result in misaligned teeth, bite issues due to problems in the roof of the mouth, and challenges in the mouth, jaw development.

Parents often prefer ignoring their kid’s habit. However, at a later stage, getting rid of the practice would require professional intervention.

Impact on the overall oral health

It’s OK for preschoolers, toddlers, and infants to suck thumbs. But, the pressure caused due to sucking begins showing adverse effects on the kid’s mouth at the age of five or six.

Teeth in the front start jutting out, and the upper, as well as lower front teeth, stop touching one another, resulting in an improper/open bite. If ignored, these changes further trigger alignment problems in permanent teeth.

To avoid negative skeletal changes, bite problems in young children require an immediate evaluation from a pediatric dentist or an orthodontist.

Bite issue can be corrected if the habit is controlled at an early age. In severe cases, dentists may recommend the use of crib or other dental appliance to be fitted in the roof of the mouth to control the child’s desire to suck fingers.

What are the effects of sucking your thumb? What happens to teeth when you suck your thumb?

Unfortunately, some parents remain unaware regarding the fact that thumb sucking can result in the crooked teeth, and badly misalign the front teeth. To create awareness, several schools in the United States team up with dental hygienists and conduct sessions for educating kids regarding the negative impacts of sucking their fingers.

The malformed roof of the mouth, overbite, misaligned jaw, problems in pronunciation are issues caused due to thumb sucking in kids.

It brings lifelong consequences for children who continue doing the same even after turning five. Expensive dental work, braces based treatment become necessary during the correction procedure.

How to get rid of the thumb sucking habit?

In most cases, children manage to control their behavior once their parents explain them to avoid doing so. They may even do it to attract attention, and ignoring such behavior can be the best solution.

Breaking old habits can be tough. Thus, it is advisable to set achievable goals like asking the child to control sucking for a few hours initially. Keep a record for the number of hours that he or she managed the habit. Praise the kid for the efforts shown during this period. Positive reinforcement can be the best approach. Offer rewards like a trip to an amusement park, chocolate, or a bedtime story in exchange for stopping finger sucking.

Parents need to use their observation skills and identify the triggers. If the child prefers to suck thumbs to cope with stress, parents should focus on the reasons behind the anxiety instead of shouting on the child to keep his fingers away from the mouth. Offering a stuffed animal, pillow, reassuring words, and a hug can help.

Parents often try dipping the kid’s thumbs in vinegar, pickle, or other stuff that tastes yucky to stop their kid from sucking.

They may also do it to deal with boredom. Gently asking the child to control the habit can work better than scolding, ridiculing, or criticizing the kid.

As mentioned earlier, using a tongue crib can also be helpful. If you are worried about your child’s oral health and damage caused to teeth due to the habit, you can always consider discussing the issue with specialists at the TruCare Dentistry based in Roswell (GA).