Rayhan & Marvizi, DDS Inc.
6200 Wilshire Blvd. Suite #1110
Los Angeles, CA 90048
323-488-5697

Dr. Joseph Marvizi, DDS Inc.
4028 Long Beach Blvd. #203
Long Beach, CA 90807
562-450-0161
9901 Hageman Road #900
Bakersfield, CA 93312
661-636-6808

Dr. Joseph Marvizi, DDS Inc.
3720 Gosford Road, #C
Bakersfield, CA 93309
661-458-9631

Thumb-sucking


baby sucking its thumbChildren have many comforters: being cuddled by Mommy, threadbare blankets, and one-eyed stuffed animals. But there’s another big one that give some parents apprehension. A study shows that in infants, 75% to 95% are thumb-suckers. What does this mean for your child’s dental health?
 
For most children, sucking their thumbs won’t adversely affect their oral health. Keep a careful eye on your child’s behavior, as thumb sucking can occasionally cause problems.
 
What’s Normal Thumb-Sucking?
The thumb-sucking habit is learned extremely early, and some children even suck their thumbs in the womb. The instinct for babies to suck is very strong, and this habit can calm them immensely. Since babies can self-soothe through thumb sucking, many kids turn to their thumbs as they get sleepy.
 
The American Dental Association reports that when kids are two to four years old, thumb sucking generally ceases without any prompting. Dropping this habit is like a rite of passage, and children no longer crave the security that comes with sucking their thumbs. If your child has permanent teeth and is still actively sucking his thumb, then it’s probably time to kick the habit.
 
What Should I Watch For?
How does your kid suck his thumb? Passive suckers are less inclined to see damage, so if your child sucks his thumb lightly, with his thumb loose and latent within his mouth, he’s probably fine. The more forceful thumb sucker could potentially cause damage, as these suckers press against the teeth or mouth. The consistently added weight of the thumb could hinder correct alignment of the teeth. If your child sucks his thumb too long, you might need to take him to the orthodontist as a teen, and in some cases, the face’s shape can be compromised.
 
If you worry that thumb sucking is threatening your child’s dental health, feel free to call us to schedule an appointment. We will help you determine the gravity of your child’s habit.
 
Can I Help My Child Quit?
Here are some helpful tips to help your child stop sucking his thumb:

  1. Use positive reinforcement instead of punishment.
  2. Cover his hand with something to prevent him from sucking overnight – either a sock or a bandage will do. Tell him he’s not in trouble, but that this is simply a reminder to not suck his thumb.
  3. Utilize the magical strategy that teachers employ, and create a progress board for your child. Each day with no sucking, your child receives a sticker. Seven days of no sucking, and maybe you can give your child a choice of different rewards. Once your child has gone a month without sucking, the habit is likely snuffed out.
  4. Pay attention to when your child sucks his thumb. If he’s sucking when he’s nervous, try and find the root of his nervousness instead of worrying about the habit.
  5. If your child normally sucks his thumb during movies or while riding in the car, give your child distractions to minimalize sucking.
  6. Be honest with your child about how thumb sucking can affect his oral health. If your child contributes to his own dental health, he might understand the importance of quitting.

 
However you proceed with ending your child’s self-soothing behavior, keep in mind that your encouragement and sympathy are vital to the process.



 
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Dr. Joseph Marvizi
is a Bakersfield dentist with over twenty years of experience supplying patients with complete dental care, including dental implants, teeth whitening, Invisalign and veneers.