THUMB SUCKING AND DENTAL CARE



Thumb sucking is a natural reflex for children. Kids suck their thumbs because it's comforting and calming. It can also be soothing, and many babies and toddlers use it as a coping mechanism when anxious or separated from their parents. The habit helps to induce sleep, and children may suck their thumbs in the evening before bedtime.
After permanent teeth come in, sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth. It can also cause changes in the roof of the mouth. The intensity of the sucking is a factor that determines whether or not dental problems may result. If children rest their thumbs passively in their mouths, they are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs. Some aggressive thumb suckers may develop problems with their baby (primary) teeth.
The best time to discourage thumb sucking is by age four. By this time, prolonged sucking could begin to affect your child's mouth and developing jaw and teeth, possibly causing permanent teeth to be misaligned. If your child passively sucks his thumb, the habit may be easier to discourage, but vigorous sucking can lead to changes in the palate that affect the permanent bite and are usually more difficult to end without intervention.
Some children may experience difficulty stopping their thumb sucking. In these instances, it may be necessary to purchase products that can be placed on the thumb or fingers in order to discourage the habit. Oftentimes, just placing a bandage on the finger or a sock or glove on the preferred hand is sufficient. Whatever method you choose to employ to discourage the behavior, remember to always use positive reinforcement to encourage your child. Criticism or nagging may cause more anxiety and perpetuate the problem.

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