What’s the most common thing nearly half of American toddlers do when they’re tired, relaxing, sleeping or being scolded? They suck their thumbs!
Thumb-sucking is the earliest and most common habit among children. It’s nothing for parents to worry about—unless the habit persists. Only after age four does thumb-sucking threaten to damage children’s teeth.
Some thumb-suckers simply rest the thumb in the mouth, sucking only at certain times. Others work at the habit, and can displace teeth severely. If, when you remove the thumb from your child’s mouth you hear a “popping,” it signals a great deal of pressure on the teeth that may cause an overbite or underbite. If the child is over four, you may want to discuss the habit with an orthodontist.
To help break a child of thumb-sucking, parents should:
- Avoid punishing the child
- Provide play materials to occupy the child’s hands
- Keep supervision to a minimum
- Keep the home environment happy.
One of the worst approaches is parental pressure—it can have a negative effect. On the other hand, peer pressure often works well, encouraging the child to imitate “grown-up” behavior.
Sometimes an orthodontic appliance can prevent or replace a thumb-sucking habit. Once achild becomes accustomed to the appliance, he or see may no longer interested in thumb-sucking.
The first step is to determine when and why a child is thumb-sucking. We’ve had lots of experience. Give us a call—we may be able to help. ■