About that Incessant Thumb Sucking

If you have kids worrying is one of the daily duties that seem to come with the job of parenting. And if your child isn’t still in the crib, you may be wondering/worrying about thumb sucking. Is he or she sucking their thumb too much? Should they have stopped by now? Are they damaging their teeth?

In the Idaho Statesman, “Peanuts” and Linus may have a place, but he’s no role model. Still, you don’t have to worry too much; thumb sucking usually passes before children hit preschool age.

Here’s the deal on thumb sucking and its affect on the teeth from Dr. Wright.

What is normal thumb sucking?

Thumb sucking is a natural comfort behavior of a child. Sometimes during an ultrasound, you can see a fetus in the womb sucking his or her thumb. Thumb sucking can help a child feel secure and happy, and it can be soothing when there is anxiety such as when the child is separated from his or her parents. Thumb sucking or pacifier use can also help a child fall asleep.

How long can it go on?

Parents wonder about thumb sucking and when it should end. This is no time to be like Linus van Pelt, carrying around a blanket and thumb sucking well into elementary school. The American Dental Association recommends discouraging thumb sucking by the age of four. By this time, prolonged sucking can begin to affect the proper development of your child’s mouth, jaw, and teeth. Continued thumb sucking can cause the permanent teeth to be misaligned, and that only spells the need for orthodontics later on.

If it continues into the five or six-year-old age the pressure from sucking will lead to changes in the mouth and teeth. The ADA says that the front teeth may begin to jut forward and the child’s bite will begin to open, meaning the upper and lower teeth won’t be able to touch. As the permanent teeth descend, they will start to become misaligned.

So, how do I break the habit?

OK, so maybe it’s time to help break the habit. There’s no need to put a couple drops of hot sauce on the thumb, as your neighbor may have touted as the perfect thumb-sucking breaker. Usually the best way to get your kid to stop sucking their thumb is to ignore the behavior. In most cases, kids just stop sucking their thumb one day. They usually start to understand that there is a point where sucking their thumb isn’t cool in certain social situations or when they compare to other kids.

Still, if it endures, try these tricks:

  • Offer a pacifier to infants. They are easier to take away, obviously.
  • Establish a chart and reward system, plotting progress on quitting.
  • Encourage and praise all attempts to stop thumb sucking in your child.

Still have questions about thumb sucking and your child? Call us at Centennial, (208) 322-1112, and ask away.