Thumb Sucking AdviceThumb sucking in children can be an off-putting habit. No parent wants to tote their tot around with his or her thumb in their mouth all day. But some parents worry that thumb sucking may actually be a harmful habit to their children- one that may cause buck teeth in later years that will eventually have to be fixed by a dentist like Dr. James A. Wells of South Charlotte Dentistry. So is thumb sucking something for parents to really be concerned about? Will it actually lead to buck teeth?

The loud and clear answer is absolutely! Thumb sucking is an important self-soothing technique for kids. Some experts believed that there is a naturally evolved desire to suck thumbs and fingers as a coping mechanism and that in the past that mechanism was essential for survival. But in the 21st century it is not necessary, and there is realistic concern about overbite, which can cause difficulty with chewing for children as they get older.

Very young children, up to approximately age six, should be allowed to suck thumbs and fingers. It is natural and normal for kids to want to suck their thumbs. Some babies even suck their thumbs in the womb! This does not harm the child’s teeth until age four to six. Then a child could develop a condition known as malocclusion, which is a slight misalignment of the teeth. The malocclusion easily goes away on its own as thumb and finger sucking cease.

But after a child approximately age six, if thumb or finger sucking has not ceased, a child is likely to begin pushing the front teeth forward, causing buck teeth or an overbite. If a child this age continues to suck his thumb, there are important techniques to remember to get a child to quit.

It is important to wean a child off of the dependent behavior. The finger or thumb sucking is a self-soothing technique that children use to deal with the anxieties of growing up. If the child is forced to stop the behavior suddenly it can cause more anxiety and the child will just desire more finger or thumb sucking. Suddenly ripping the finger or thumb sucking away can have long term negative consequences including continued thumb sucking and long-term anxiety.

A child should not be forced to stop and aggressive behavior such as pulling the fingers or thumb from the child’s mouth, forcing the child to wear mittens or gloves, telling the child they will be in trouble for sucking the thumb, or putting unpleasant tasting products in the child’s mouth can cause more fear.

Healthy intervention includes positive encouragement. Parents may also try replacing the thumb with other comforts like a blanket or favorite toy. Talking to a child about the behavior can also be effective. Parents can explain why it is important and explain that older kids do not engage in the activity.

If your child has had a problem with finger or thumb sucking and you fear it has caused a misalignment in his or her teeth, call South Charlotte Dentistry today at 704-759-0908 or visit the website at .

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