Some of the most frustrated people I meet are those whose child is a thumb-sucker. Thumb-sucking begins in the womb, and, consequently, develops into a comfort mechanism for most children. For some it only happens around bedtime; for others it is a daily addiction! Either way, it is important to wean your child from their thumb before the permanent front teeth begin coming in. Otherwise, thumb-sucking can have very negative effects on both the teeth and jaws. To help your child avoid developing serious, severe orthodontic problems, follow these tips:
Congratulate them when they don't suck their thumb. Motivate them with a book or toy if they stop the habit. Studies have shown that if you break any habit for a full two weeks it is likely to not return, so make that their goal.
Look For Dental Consequences
One of the main signs that your child's thumb-sucking is affecting dental development is when the front teeth do not overlap each other. This is called an open bite, and it is due to the thumb blocking proper tooth eruption. Speech is also usually negatively affected. If you notice these signs, give us a call for a complimentary consultation.
It's Not Always A Thumb
Even though the thumb is the most common comfort mechanism for children, many other things can cause the same problems. Fingers, tongue-thrusts, pencils, pacifiers; I've even seen a child who chewed on the corners of DVD cases! Watch for bad intraoral habits.
Let The Orthodontist Do The Talking
Sometimes, having a professional educate the child on the consequences of thumb-sucking can do the trick. I prefer empowering the child to stop him or herself, which is surprisingly effective.
Consults By Age 7
Whether a thumb-sucker or not, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children be screened by an orthodontic specialist by age 7. By this time, permanent front teeth should be coming in. If you notice, however, any of the above problems prior to age seven it is better to have the child screened early.
If your child has a thumb-sucking habit, call Dr. Damon Barbieri for your complimentary consultation. 615.355.2055