Do you have a thumbsucker on your hands?
For some, it might seem like it’s not a big deal. Kids will be kids, right? For others – thumbsucking is a sign for alarm and immediate intervention, or else they will be stuck with crooked, misaligned teeth forever. Right?
Not necessarily. Our pediatric dentists in Garden Grove frequently help families deal with the problem of thumbsucking. The right answer is somewhere more in the middle. Of course, if you have a child who has been thumbsucking for years and they already have a full mouth of teeth then yes, it is something you should be concerned with (more on the “why” in a moment). On the other hand, if your infant or toddler is sucking their thumb (or a pacifier) and they haven’t yet had many teeth come in yet – you still have time to break the habit before any damage is done. Read on to learn the “why” and the “how” behind getting your kids to give up the habit of thumb or pacifier sucking.
Why You Should Discourage Thumbsucking
The answer for why you should discourage your children from thumbsucking is pretty simple. If this bad habit continues until the age of 5 or even 6, the pressure from sucking and the obstruction in your child’s mouth will almost act in the exact opposite way braces do – except it will push teeth out of alignment as they grow in. When permanent teeth come in, they will be influenced by this misalignment – which can lead to serious problems in the future that can impact speaking and eating.
When You Should Discourage Thumbsucking
Generally, if your child is still sucking their thumb beyond age 3 – it’s time to start making serious efforts to break the habit. If possible, you should begin a program of positive reinforcement to break the habit as soon as teeth begin coming-in for your toddler.
How You Should Discourage Thumbsucking
Discouraging thumbsucking doesn’t have to be hard. In the beginning, offer a pacifier instead – to eliminate the reliance on a thumb and for the fact that a pacifier is much easier to take away (we don’t recommend taking away your child’s thumb!)
Later, you can use positive reinforcement to reward your child for not sucking their thumb for certain periods of time. You can even try keeping a chart to track your little one’s progress towards quitting.
Having trouble? If your child is increasingly stubborn about quitting this bad habit, it could be time to see a pediatric dentist near you, who can show your child pictures and explain in their own way why they should leave this habit behind.