Is Thumbsucking Bad Long Term?

That is a common question we hear from a lot of parents here at Rigby Advanced Dental.  Never fear, Dr. Rigby has a few nuggets of wisdom and suggestions for those who will listen and read.

Defining the problem — Thumb sucking is a natural and common behavior that many babies start naturally on their own. Babies have a reflex for sucking, and will automatically begin to suck on anything placed in or around their mouths shortly after birth. If their thumbs come in contact with their mouths, the process begins.

This sucking reflex begins to disappear around the age of 4 months as a child moves on to different milestones. Yet thumb sucking can continue because it no longer is a reflex, but instead turns into a habit that provides comfort and relief.

If you watch a child that sucks his or her thumb, you’ll notice the thumb sucking is usually associated with a need: maybe they are tired, hungry, or scared. While many children stop the habit on their own, it can be something that continues on for years. This is when thumb sucking can become a problem. Prolonged thumb sucking may cause:

  • A child’s teeth to become improperly aligned, pushing the front teeth outward
  • Malformation of the palate roof of the mouth due to prolonged contraction from the sucking action
  • Speech problems, including mispronouncing certain letters of the alphabet, and lisps when talking

When should you begin to take action?  For the most part, experts agree that you should ignore the behavior in children and toddlers preschool age and under. Most children will stop thumb sucking on their own; the more emphasis you put on it, the bigger deal it will become.  If the habit continues on from there, the best way to handle the situation is to help the child stop sucking on their own.

Tips to Help A Child Stop Thumbsucking

  • Give the child extra attention when thumb sucking is most prevalent.
  • Help them find other ways of dealing with stress.
  • Talk openly about thumb sucking and what you can do to stop/change the behavior.
  • Apply something that tastes bad onto the thumb as a means of helping your child accomplish the goal of quitting. It should be used with his/her permission as a reminder, not as a deterrent from you.
  • Apply a bandage around the thumb as a reminder.
  • Distract the child when he/she begins to suck. Start an activity that requires the use of both hands.

If you or any family members in Austin, TX have further questions, please contact us and we would be happy to discuss any concerns.  Why wait…….call today (512) 992-2822 or visit our website Rigby Advanced Dental.  We are located in The Offices at the Hill Country Galleria in Bee Cave, TX.

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