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Thumb-Sucking: A Cause For Concern For Parents?

Thumb Sucking
Thumb Sucking Habit

“Is thumb sucking normal?” “What measures can be taken to make our child stop the habit?” These are some common questions by parents that I encounter in my clinical practice. It is one of the many things parents are concerned about as their babies grow up and become toddlers. 

Here are 5 important facts you should know about this habit.

1. This is a natural reflex for a baby

This reflex gives your child comfort, and as he/she grows older, it can make them feel safe and happy. It can also be calming, and many babies and toddlers use it as a coping mechanism when they are nervous or separated from their parents.

2. Children usually quit sucking between two and four years of age

Most kids stop sucking their thumbs on their own. However, for some, it becomes a habit and persists beyond 4 years and needs attention.

3. Before permanent teeth erupt, parents need to help their child break the habit.

The best time to discourage thumb sucking is four years of age. Repeated sucking may impact the growth and development of the mouth, jaw, and teeth which may lead to misalignment of permanent teeth. Vigorous sucking may also lead to changes in the roof of the mouth and affect the permanent bite.

4. The best way to encourage your child to avoid thumb sucking is to provide positive reinforcement

Give your child a gentle reminder when you see their thumb in their mouth. Incentivize them or create a reward system for not sucking their thumb, and praise when they correct the action on their own. This helps children become more aware of their acts. 

5. Seek professional help

Thumb sucking can be an incredibly hard habit to break for some children. Your dentist may suggest an oral appliance to overcome the habit. The device is attached to the palate and upper teeth and works by restricting the ability of the child to touch the roof of his or her mouth. Consultation with a child psychologist can also help.

In conclusion, thumb sucking is a habit that can take some time to break, so try to be patient and optimistic while encouraging your kid. If the habit persists beyond age five, consider talking to your child’s dentist.

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