Should You Worry About Your Child’s Thumb Sucking?

Pediatric Dentistry in Racine, WI | North Bay Dental

Part of parenting is worrying about your child’s development. You probably don’t need to get too concerned about thumb sucking — yet.

Many babies start sucking their thumbs in the womb, a fact revealed by ultrasound images. So it is pretty unrealistic to expect them to drop the habit after they are born! However, continuing to suck on that thumb can lead to dental problems. Sooner or later, it has to stop.

Most children will quit their thumb-sucking habit on their own. Peer pressure from preschool or kindergarten classmates often convinces kids to stop sucking their thumbs. But if this doesn’t happen, call our Racine, WI dental office at 262-417-7326 and make an appointment. Our dental team works very well with children, and your child can get the needed help to keep their young smiles healthy.

Thumb-Sucking Concerns

Why is sucking on the thumb a bad thing? Again, it’s not so bad at the beginning. But here are some of the problems thumb-sucking can cause as your child grows older.

  • It can make teeth grow crooked.
  • It can affect speech development. (Long-term thumb sucking can alter your child’s jaw placement and development of tongue muscles.)
  • Thumbs can become sore and even infected.
  • Thumb sucking can cause an overbite.
  • It may affect how the roof of your child’s mouth is formed.

By calling North Bay Dental today, you can schedule an appointment for your child with our highly trained dentists. They can monitor your child’s oral development and even help with that thumb-sucking behavior.

6 Tips to Stop Thumb-Sucking Habit

Although our dentists are great working with children, there are some things parents can do at home to help. The most important thing is to use positive reinforcement. So no yelling, no confrontations, no shaming, and no nasty-tasting liquids applied to your child’s thumb.

Here are six positive tips to stop a thumb-sucking habit.

1. Limit the time your child spends sucking his or her thumb. Present it as an activity that should be done in private, such as in the child’s bedroom before a nap.

2. Try to make your child more aware of the thumb-sucking habit. If you notice thumb sucking, ask, “Do you know you are sucking your thumb?” Your child may not even be aware of it.

3. Try to make your child realize that grown-ups do not suck their thumbs. Ask questions like, “Do you think Grandma sucks her thumb?”

4. When you notice thumb sucking, try to get your child to substitute another comforting activity. Cuddling with a favorite stuffed animal (or with you) is a great alternative.

5. Praise your child frequently for not sucking his or her thumb. Consider setting a reminder on your phone so you do not forget.

6. Create a reward chart. Let your child post a sticker every time they reach an agreed-upon milestone, such as going an entire day without thumb sucking. Then celebrate these achievements with a special snack or activity.

Thumb Sucking and Habit Appliances

When all other methods fail, a dental appliance that most dentists refer to as a habit appliance may be needed to stop thumb sucking in older children.

The habit appliance fits on the roof of your child’s mouth. It often has a tongue bead or other attachment that lies just behind the front teeth. Anchor bands cemented to the back teeth hold it in place. While it won’t stop your child from putting a thumb or other fingers into their mouth, it will make it a lot less comfortable.

It is a good idea to combine the habit appliance with a positive reinforcement method, such as offering rewards, when certain milestones are achieved.

As with other dental appliances, it is important to take good care of a habit appliance.

  • Your child should clean the habit appliance daily with a toothbrush, preferably after every meal. Make sure it gets cleaned at bedtime.
  • Your child should avoid chewing ice and eating sticky candy. These activities can break the habit appliance.
  • Schedule regular appointments at our Racine, WI dental office so our team can make sure things are still working as they should.

Call us today at 262-417-7326 or use our convenient online form to schedule an appointment for your child. Thumb-sucking early on is not a concern, but don’t let it continue or it could hurt your child’s smile.

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