Thumb Sucking Problem and Prevention

Most children stop sucking on thumbs, pacifiers or other objects on their own between 2 and 4 years of age. No harm is done to their teeth or jaws until permanent teeth start to erupt. The only time it might cause concern is if it goes on beyond 6 to 8 years of age. At this time, it may affect the shape of the oral cavity or dentition. Thumb sucking leads to open bite, a high arched palate because of the pressure created in the mouth by the buccinator muscle.  Aside from the damaging physical aspects of thumb sucking, there are also additional risks, which unfortunately, are present at all ages. These include increased risk of infection from communicable diseases, due to the simple fact that non-sterile thumbs are covered with infectious agents, as well as many social implications. Some children experience social difficulties, as often children are taunted by their peers for engaging in what they can consider to be an “immature” habit. This taunting often results the child being rejected by the group or being subjected to ridicule by their peers, which can cause understandable psychological stress.

To prevent children from sucking their thumbs some parents use bitterants or piquant substances on their child’s hands—although this is not a procedure encouraged by the American Dental Association or the Association of Pediatric Dentists. During the 1950s, parents could get a series of sharp prongs known as “hay-rakes” cemented to a child’s teeth to discourage sucking.

The American Dental Association recommends:

  • Praise children for not sucking, instead of scolding them when they do.
  • If a child is sucking their thumb when feeling insecure or needing comfort, focus instead on correcting the cause of the anxiety and provide comfort to your child.
  • If a child is sucking on their thumb because of boredom, try getting the child’s attention with a fun activity.
  • Involve older children in the selection of a means to cease thumb sucking.
  • The pediatric dentist can offer encouragement to a child and explain what could happen to its teeth if it does not stop sucking.
  • Only if these tips are ineffective, remind the child of the habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock/glove on the hand at night.
  • Other orthodontics for appliances are available.

Clinical studies have shown that appliances such as TGuards can be 90% effective in breaking the thumb or finger sucking habit. Rather than use bitterants or piquants, which are not endorsed by the ADA due to their causing of discomfort or pain, TGuards break the habit simply by removing the suction responsible for generating the feelings of comfort and nurture. Other appliances are available, such as fabric thumb guards from Thumbsie, each having their own benefits and features depending on the child’s age, willpower and motivation.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thumb_sucking

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