Sucking is a natural reflex and infants and young children may use thumbs, fingers, pacifiers and other objects on which to suck. These sucking habits can cause damage to developing oral cavities with prolonged use. This can lead to such things as:
- Crooked Teeth
- Constricted Palate
- Orthodontic Problems
- Speech Issues
The thumb and pacifier sucking habits will generally only became problem if they go on for a very long period of time. Most children stop these habits on their own, but if they are still sucking their thumbs or fingers past the age of 3, a mouth appliance may be recommended by your pediatric dentist.
Here are suggestions to help your child get through thumb sucking:
- Instead of scolding children for thumb sucking, praise them when they are not.
- Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure. Focus on correcting the cause of anxiety, instead of the thumb sucking.
- Children who are sucking for comfort will feel less of a need when their parents provide comfort.
- Reward children when they refrain from sucking during difficult periods, such as when being separated from their parents.
- Your pediatric dentist can encourage children to stop sucking and explain what could happen if they continue.
- If these approaches don’t work, remind the children of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night. Your pediatric dentist may recommend the use of a mouth appliance.
Source: American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry