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Thumb Sucking

Thumb Sucking in Children

Thumb sucking is a natural habit for children. In fact, it’s so natural that many children even suck their thumbs in the womb. This simple behavior helps small children feel relaxed and secure and makes it easier for them to deal with separation anxiety. Parents usually don’t need to be concerned with thumb sucking in children unless it changes the shape of their mouths or teeth or continues past the age of 3, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Parents need to understand how this behavior can impact the teeth and what they should do if that happens.

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Thumb Sucking and Teeth — What You Need to Know

Thumb sucking can become a problem when the permanent teeth start to come in. Children apply pressure to their teeth when they suck their thumbs, and this can lead to skeletal changes that impact the alignment of the teeth. The upper and lower front teeth might not be able to touch or the front teeth might jut out due to prolonged thumb sucking. In some cases, the bite cannot open normally either. It is essential to visit a pediatric dentist for an assessment if you think this habit is impacting your child’s teeth.


Breaking the Habit

Parents need to begin breaking them of this habit. First, parents should focus on what causes their children stress. Thumb sucking in children is often a way to cope with stress, so by eliminating stressors or finding new ways to deal with issues, parents can help their children stop the behavior.

Then, parents need to put a reward system in place. Use a reward chart that contains small goals. At first, set a goal of a few hours. When the child reaches the goal, provide a small reward. Lengthen the time of each goal until the child has finally broken free of the habit. Then, you can provide the child with a larger reward for a job well done.

Education can also help a child stop this habit. Schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist. The dentist will explain the dangers of thumb sucking to your child, so he or she better understands that this is not a punishment. You want your child to maintain proper oral health.


Monitor Your Child’s Teeth

Keep an eye on your child’s teeth to look for changes, and if you find any, schedule an appointment with AZ Kids's Dental.

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