Thumbsucking is a perfectly natural habit children engage in. Does your child suck his thumb and the parent may be wondering why. Kids suck on their thumbs, pacifier, finger, or any other small object to give them more security, feel less lonely, and to help them observe their new surroundings. Children may also suck their thumbs as they go to sleep.
At the age of six years old when children's permanent teeth begin to erupt, continuous thumb sucking may cause issues with the mouth's growth formation, the mouth's roof shape, and as well as teeth position and alignment. The main factor that determines if a child may develop dental problems with thumbsucking is the intensity of the sucking. Simply resting the thumb inside the mouth is much less likely to cause oral issues then vigorously sucking the thumb.
ORAL SIGNS OF THUMBSUCKING
- A very narrow and arched shaped upper palate
- Top front teeth are excessively flared outwards
- The child's entire upper teeth appears very narrow and arched
TIPS TO HELP YOUR CHILD STOP SUCKING THE THUMB
- Kids tend to suck their thumbs or fingers when they feel insecure or when they need a "blanket" for comfort. Try finding the root cause of the insecurity issues and address them if possible.
- When the child goes to sleep, have the child wear gloves or a sock to discourage the habit.
- Place a bitter paste on the child's thumb after they go to sleep. Your dentist may be able to prescribe a safe yet bitter medicine to coat the thumb.
- Praise him/her for not sucking the thumb
- If all else fails, have your dentist reinforce the importance of the need to stop sucking the thumb. The dentist may refer the child to an Orthodontist to place an appliance (ie. fixed palatal crib) that makes thumbsucking uncomfortable to quell the habit.
Children typically stop sucking their thumb prior to the age of six when their permanent teeth start to erupt. If you notice your child is still sucking their thumb beyond the age of six years old and you notice changes in the child's arch shape and teeth position, be sure to consult your family dentist or orthodontist.
Your family dentist in Bellevue,
Peter Chien, DMD, MPH