Dento-maxillary growth and development disordersNovember 24, 2017
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How can we stop (or help)
the child give up thumb suckling?
Thumb suckling starts soon after birth and is so frequent in small children that the question of whether or not this is a normal phenomenon arises. The answer is YES, until the age of 2-3, it is a natural, comforting, soothing habit. Allowing this habit to go on is harmful for tooth alignment, occlusion, and the development of jawbones.
Most children suddenly give up thumb suckling around the age of 3-4.
If they cannot do it on their own, parents can discuss this matter with the children, praise them or reward them for their progress, in their attempt to break this habit. Encouragements should be used, instead of threats. The children have to understand that they are receiving help in giving up thumb suckling and that they are not being punished, as their cooperation is paramount for success.
Colored bandages can be applied on the thumb or gloves can be used, bitter nail polish, in order to remind the children that their thumbs belong outside the mouth and only they have the power to control this.
A reward system can be put in place: marking down the days when the children managed to control their desire to suckle their thumb and awarding prizes for their success. Children shouldn’t be constantly told off when caught suckling their thumb, but praised for the times when they don’t.
Distracting them when they are suckling their thumb could be an option. Many children suckle their thumb before bed, until they fall asleep, when they are sad or bored. Drawing them towards other captivating activities could help them forget about their thumb.
In some cases, thumb suckling after the age of 5-6 could indicate an emotional issue and a psychological checkup is recommended. This could indicate a feeling of loneliness, of jealousy towards a smaller brother, stress related to going to kindergarten or the presence of a tension within the family. Most children stop suckling their thumbs once they grow up and with the help of some simple therapeutic measures.
If the children fail to break this habit, harmful for their teeth, on their own, orthodontic appliances can be used, strictly upon the recommendation of a specialist and only after all other methods have failed (educational methods, making children aware that this habit is harmful for their teeth). Most times, children sincerely wish to break this habit.
The orthodontic appliances used to prevent thumb insertion into the mouth: vestibular shield, lingual shield,. monoblock.