Your child is so much like you – funny, smart, and mature for his age. But unfortunately, it seems like you’ve also passed on one of your other attributes to your little one – your naturally anxious demeanor. Although you’ve learned to relax as an adult, you remember your own penchant for sucking your thumb that your son has picked up. Although you know he does this to soothe himself, did you know that this habit can have a negative impact on his smile? In this post, your respected pediatric dentist in Thornton explains the long-term effects of thumb-sucking – and what you can do about it. Learn more from the team at Treasured Teeth.

Is Thumb-Sucking Bad For My Child?

Many babies develop this natural reflex before birth, and it can actually be helpful to prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and strengthen the muscles of the mouth and throat when infants are young. But, after the age of 6 months old, sucking on a thumb or pacifier can become detrimental to your child’s oral health.

Your son or daughter can develop a condition called pacifier teeth if this habit continues after this point. When this happens, the pacifier or thumb changes the placement and shape of the teeth, jaw, soft, and hard palate. While it may seem sweet to watch your little one comfort themselves with their thumbs, it can lead to the need for braces, or even complicated oral surgery as they grow older.

How Can I Help My Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb Or Pacifer?

As your children’s dentist in Thornton, we suggest the strategies below to help your child end their pacifier use and thumbsucking:

  • Gradual Pacifier Weaning – Only allow your child to suck on a pacifier when putting them down for a nap or going to sleep at bedtime, rather than whenever they ask for it. Then, phase this device out completely over the course of a month or two.
  • Complete Pacifier Stoppage – Give your son or daughter about a week’s notice to let them know that the garbage man will be coming around to remove all the pacifier’s in the house – it’s essential to give kids a warning to cope with the idea of losing something comforting. Then, toss out all of these at once, rather than keeping one or two around the house, since this will just reinforce bad habits.
  • Address Anxiety – Since kids suck their thumbs to calm themselves, address their underlying anxiety with patience and compassion. Remember, your little one is having a hard time, not giving you a hard time. Talk with them about their fears and reassure them that it’s all right to feel afraid, just not to suck their thumb to deal with it – instead, they should cuddle a teddy bear or try coloring to distract themselves. Then, give your kids a sticker or lots of hugs and praise when they don’t suck their thumbs.
  • Give The Facts – Explain to your child that the germs on their hand can make them sick, and teach them that they may need braces when they grow up if they suck their thumbs.
  • Watch Other Kids – Since kids can sometimes be reluctant to listen to Mom & Dad, have Dr. Tippets and Dr. Lacy explain how bad thumb-sucking is, or even watch videosfrom parents and kids on YouTube reinforcing your message – sometimes, just having a third-party suggest the same idea can be all you need.

If you need extra help with breaking your kids of the thumb-sucking habit, give Treasured Teeth a call or schedule an appointment today!