Should I Stop My Child From Thumb-Sucking?

Should I Stop My Child From Thumb-Sucking?

Thumb-sucking is a natural reflex for babies. This is a habit that can be seen even among infants in the womb. Babies suck their thumbs to feel happy and secure. This habit also helps induce sleep and as such, babies and toddlers often suck their thumbs before bedtime.

Because thumb-sucking is a natural, self-soothing habit of babies, they often carry this practice as they grow older. However, there is nothing good or appealing about seeing older kids suck their thumbs. This is inappropriate for their age and already an unhealthy habit for them.

But at what age should you stop your kids from thumb-sucking? Dental and health experts say it is best to discourage thumb-sucking before they turn four years old.

Risks of Prolonged Thumb-Sucking

Kids who are already three years old and above and still suck their thumbs habitually run the risk of having their permanent teeth misaligned — a dental problem also known as malocclusion. Their upper front teeth may be pushed outward while their lower front teeth may be pressed inward. This can lead to an open bite and a child’s teeth will not clasp together as they should. Older kids who still suck their thumbs also run the risk of having their top molars not lining up with the lower ones.

Prolonged thumb-sucking has other health implications as well. Kids are prone to having bacteria on their hands and fingers. When they put their thumb and other fingers in their mouth, bacteria also enter their mouths. If the bacteria are allowed to fester inside their mouths, they are at risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease.

Children who constantly suck their thumbs can also hurt their gums and fingers. This habit can cause small cuts that are painful and may even become infected.

What You Can Do as a Parent To Help Your Child Break The Habit

To help your kids overcome prolonged thumb-sucking, you have to realize first that in older children, this unhealthy habit is typically an effort to self-soothe. They will do this more often when they feel stressed.

As such, teach your kids how to manage stress. Find out what their usual causes of stress are and talk to your pediatrician or a therapist about the best coping techniques your kids can follow.

In addition, take steps to help prevent your kids from putting their thumbs in their mouths. Distract them with other activities that keep their hands busy. Place bandages or an unpleasant-tasting substance such as chili or ginger on the thumb to stop the child from sucking it. Offer fun rewards for your kids’ progress such as stickers, toys, or their favorite treats.

Lastly, educate your kids on how harmful prolonged thumb-sucking can be on their oral health. You can have your family dentist explain its negative effects on your children. Your pediatric dentist will be able to provide more details that will enable your little ones to better understand how bad thumb-sucking is for their dental health.

For more information on helping your child breaking the thumb sucking habit, contact us here. Cowabunga dudes!

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