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Help, my child won't stop thumb sucking!

Help, my child won't stop thumb sucking!

While gentle thumb sucking is a natural reflex, that may help some babies feel safe and happy, persistent, vigorous thumb sucking can lead to a number of dental problems. 

It's not unusual for young children to suck their thumb in order to soothe themselves, help them fall asleep, or to relax themselves. However, thumb sucking is something parents should keep an eye on since it may lead to some damaging effects on the child's mouth and teeth.

Persistent and more vigorous thumb sucking could lead to damaging effects such as: 

  • Top and bottom teeth don’t meet when the mouth is closed, called an open bite
  • Changes to the shape of the jaw, affecting the alignment of the teeth, may lead to a lisp
  • Changes to the shape of the roof of the mouth, and sensitivity of the roof of the mouth
  • Front teeth protruding out from the jaw and mouth, called an overbite
  • Bottom teeth tipping inward toward the back of the mouth

The good news is that, as long as the child stops thumb sucking before their permanent teeth come in, many of these effects can be resolved or even avoided completely. 

Tips For Helping Your Child Stop Thumb Sucking

Often children stop thumb sucking on their own by the time they are 4 years old, but if your child needs some encouragement to break the habit here are a few helpful tips.

Stay Positive

Keep reinforcement positive! Be sure to avoid punishing, embarrassing or nagging at your child. 

When you notice that they are not sucking their thumb be sure to praise your child. It may be helpful to offer small rewards for their efforts.

Try keeping a "thumbprint calendar" as a positive incentive to help your child stop thumb sucking. Just dip your child's thumb into food dye and let them mark each 'thumb-free' day on the calendar.

Find a Stuffy to Love

A common reason that children suck their thumb is self-soothing. If that's the case for your child, transitioning them from thumb sucking to holding another reassuring item may be helpful.

Look for an object that can provide the temporary comfort that your child is seeking. Something soft like a small blanket, or stuffed animal can be ideal for a child to cuddle. 

Keep Hands Busy

Sometimes thumb sucking occurs due to boredom, or ideal hands. It's a good idea to keep your child busy with crafts, games, colouring, or even turning the pages of a book. If their hands are busy their thumb will likely stay away from their mouth. 

If you're concerned about the effects of thumb sucking on your child's developing mouth contact us to book an appointment. Our Burnaby children's dentists can help.

Download the FREE SmileTown Kids' Activity Booklet.

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