Kick the Thumb Sucking Habit Before It’s Too Late

September 19, 2011

Thumb sucking (or pacifier sucking) is a part of nearly every child’s early years. When they’re little, this sucking motion is often a comforting, subconscious habit.

As a parent, there’s no reason to be concerned about the use of these “security blankets” when your child is very young, but if your child is still sucking his or her thumb and/or fingers after permanent teeth erupt (usually around the age of 5 or 6), they may be putting themselves at risk for problems later in life. (FYI, the pacifier should be LONG gone by this point!)

What’s the harm in allowing children to continue sucking their thumbs? When this habit continues after permanent teeth start coming in, thumb sucking could be causing permanent changes that affect tooth and jaw structure. Specifically, thumb sucking can cause misalignment of the teeth, which can lead to a number of issues, including difficulty chewing, breathing problems, speech impediments, and the need for braces.

Help your child wean off the pacifier or thumb sucking habit by being a stickler for it. The key to winning this battle is persistence. Once you take the pacifier away or remove your child’s thumb from his or her mouth, don’t backtrack…even if your child isn’t happy about the change. It will take some getting used to (for everyone), but in the end, you’re doing what’s best for your child now and later in life.

For more tips about caring for your child’s teeth and gums, call Lake Orion Family Dentistry in Lake Orion, Michigan at (248) 693-6213. Family dentist Dr. Brad Greenfield loves to see children in his office and looks forward to helping your little one have a healthy smile that lasts a lifetime.

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