Thumb, Finger, and Pacifier Habits and Teeth
Sucking is a natural reflex in babies and toddlers. It helps them to comfort themselves as well as explore the world around them. Many children tend to give up this habit around the age of 2. In the early years, these habits are not harmful. However, if they continue past the age of 3 or 4, this is when issues can arise. If you are concerned about the thumb, finger, and pacifier habits of your child, Great Grins for KIDS - Oregon City can help.
The Dangers of These Habits
While thumb and finger sucking in the early years is completely normal and natural, issues can arise if these habits continue past the age of 3. In a normal bite, the top front teeth slightly overlap the bottom teeth when biting down. The pressure from sucking a thumb, finger, or pacifier, however, can sometimes interfere with normal tooth eruption as well as jaw development. This can cause some children to develop what is called an open bite. This is when the top teeth do not properly overlap the bottom teeth. Instead, there is an open space when the child bites down.
Helping Your Child to Stop Sucking Their Thumb
Most children break thumb and finger sucking habits on their own between the ages of 2 and 4. There are ways that you can help your child to stop if these habits continue.
|Ignore it. One of the first things you can do is not make a big deal out of thumb sucking. The more you draw attention to the habit, the more likely a child is to continue. Instead, do your best to ignore it when it occurs.
|Praise your child when they are not sucking their thumb or finger. Instead of scolding your child for sucking their thumb or finger, praise them when they are not. You can even provide them with a small reward such as a sticker when you notice that they are not sucking their thumb.
|Provide comfort and distract them. Some children suck on their thumb or fingers when they are upset or bored. Pay attention to what triggers the habit in your child. If they suck when they are upset, provide extra hugs and cuddles. If they are bored, have some fun activities nearby to keep their little hands busy.
|Call us for some extra help. If your child is having a hard time giving up the habit, we can help. We can explain the dangers of sucking their thumb or finger and help them to understand the importance of giving up the habit. If your child still cannot give it up, we may suggest a special oral appliance to help.
The effects of pacifier habits are essentially the same as thumb and finger habits. These habits, however, are generally easier to break, especially if your child does not have the pacifier in their mouth for extended periods of time. Pacifier use past the age of 2 is not advised, so it is recommended to start trying to break the habit around 18 months of age. There are a few ways you can help to break the habit such as poking holes into the nipple of the pacifier or cutting the end off. Praise your child when they are not using it and let them know just how proud you are of them for giving it up. You may also provide your child with another comfort object to help them fall asleep such as a small blanket or stuffed animal.
While thumb, finger, and pacifier habits can provide your young child with comfort, continuing these habits after the age of 2 can increase the risk for serious oral development issues. If you have any questions or concerns, call Great Grins for KIDS - Oregon City today at 971-470-0045.