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Dr. William Moore
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When Should you Worry about Thumb Sucking?


Posted on 8/25/2015 by William Moore
A young boy sucking his thumb.As a parent, it can be a huge relief when your child finds a way to pacify himself. Sometimes that method is with thumb sucking. This habit, while cute at first, can cause detrimental issues with your child's dental health down the road.

This is not to say that you must make him stop right away, but there will come a time that he will be too old to participate in this method of pacification.

When Should it Stop?
The typical time that is best to stop thumb sucking is when the child's permanent teeth start to come in. This will vary for each child, but the average age is 5 years old. The determining factor on whether you should interfere with this habit or not is how often and hard your child sucks on his thumb. If he only needs it to pacify himself for a few minutes, it typically is not too detrimental, but if he walks around the house around the clock sucking his thumb or sucks it while he is sleeping, the intensity and frequency can cause damage to his oral health.

How to Stop Thumb Sucking

Trying to get your child to stop sucking his thumb can be very difficult. It needs to be a decision that he makes on his own, which means you can encourage him to get to that point, but you cannot push. Remember that your child uses this as a form of security, so any negative annotations towards it could make it even harder for him to quit as he becomes more afraid of what is going to happen.

The more positive reinforcement you provide your child, the easier it will be for him to quit. Every child will differ in the length of time it takes him to quit and the rewards that work the best. Judge your child's needs and reward him for any time that is spent without thumb sucking. Make sure to lengthen these periods as he gets better and better at avoiding this bad habit.

What if Thumb Sucking does not Stop?

If your child is over the age of five or has permanent teeth already, he can be causing unnecessary damage to his teeth that could cause a lifetime of problems. Generally, thumb sucking can cause issues with the growth of the teeth, forcing them forward or upwards and out of their natural position.

Some people even cause problems with the roof of their mouth if they intensely suck their thumb. What this means for your child down the road is misaligned teeth and a misaligned bite. This can be cause for certain oral health issues and even physical health issues as a misaligned bite can be detrimental to their overall health. In the long run, this could mean more intense dental treatments and a lifetime of difficulties with their mouth.

It is very hard to get your child to stop sucking his thumb, but it is necessary. Being as consistent as possible with him will help him to see the necessity of quitting this habit. The older your child is, the more ability he will have to reason with you and understand the importance of stopping this habit. Try to help your child find a way to pacify himself that does not include the use of anything in his mouth. When he has something to replace his method of security he will be more likely to give in and quit the habit.

If you need help with your child's thumb sucking habit, please call our office for an appointment - our staff is happy to help!
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