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Orthodontist Explains Risks of Thumb Sucking and Treatment

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Babies and infants often suck on their fingers, thumbs and pacifiers as a natural reflex and self-soothing technique that offers comfort and security. Over time, however, thumb sucking can lead to orthodontic problems later in life. Typically around the age of two to four, children outgrow their thumb sucking habits, which is around the same time their permanent teeth are ready to come in. However, if your child does not stop sucking their thumb after their permanent teeth have erupted, they will need to see an orthodontist, Dr. Jeff, Dr. Soo or Dr. Betina to assist them.

Why Do Orthodontists Say Thumb Sucking is Bad?

If your child continues to suck their thumb or fingers past the age of four, it may cause problems with the proper growth of their mouth and alignment of their teeth. In some cases, it may even cause changes to arise in the top of their mouth. The problems are more common in aggressive thumb suckers, such as children who make popping or clicking sounds when sucking their thumb, and aggressive thumb suckers may even start developing problems with their primary (baby) teeth.

How Can I Get My Child to Stop?

Quite often, children will stop sucking their thumbs on their own before they reach the age of four. If your child’s thumb sucking isn’t abating, it may be time to be proactive in helping them stop. This means understanding why they do it in the first place.

-Learn what triggers your child’s thumb sucking: Are they feeling anxious or insecure? When your child is triggered, try addressing the issue causing them to want to suck their thumb and refocus their attention on more appropriate behavior. Offer a healthier alternative, like a pillow or stuffed animal to squeeze when stressed. Gently remind them to stop without scolding, criticizing or ridiculing them. Likewise, offer praise whenever they avoid sucking their thumb so they equate that with something positive.

-Temporary thumb sucking alternatives: There are various other methods that are used to help break children from thumb sucking, such as the use of bitter-tasting nail polish and placing socks on their hands. However, there are times when this will just not work and despite your best efforts, your child may continue to suck their thumb.

-Effective oral appliance: If you cannot get your child to stop sucking their thumb, Dr. Jeff, Dr. Soo and Dr. Betina and our Shirck Orthodontics team are ready to help! We offer thumb cribs, an innovative oral appliance that is worn in your child’s mouth. The appliance is positioned behind the top arch of teeth to prevent your child from sucking their thumbs.

Young children naturally find sucking things soothing. Not to mention, placing things in their mouth, such as fingers and pacifiers is a natural way for them to explore their world. However, you want to break these habits as soon as possible because it can cause long-term damage to your child’s developing smile.

We Are the Orthodontist Near You

If you are having trouble getting your child to stop sucking their thumb or fingers, please contact Shirck Orthodontics to schedule your child’s appointment and learn more about thumb cribs. Dr. Jeff, Dr. Soo and Dr. Betina offer the necessary interventions to stop the long-term consequences of thumb sucking. We have convenient locations near you in Powell, Newark, Westerville, or New Albany and Pataskala, Ohio.