The American Dental Association considers thumb-sucking as a normal activity and part of child’s natural reflexes. The action provides security, happiness, and induces sleep.
It also reduces the likelihood of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. SID is an unexplained death of a baby while asleep. Experts have associated the syndrome with low birth weight, respiratory infection, and brain defects.
Statistically, over 75 percent of children are sucking their fingers on their first year, a figure which diminishes in preschool years as children begin to explore and build relationships. By the age of five, only 20 percent of children are thumb-sucking.
Still, thumb-sucking can be problematic when it comes to the growth of the teeth and mouth.
Because the thumb is placed inside the mouth and rests its bottom part on the top of the teeth, a pressure is exerted on the front teeth which can cause overbite and problems with the general bite and spacing.
When the teeth shift, the face can misshape and pose problems in eating, speaking, as well as, oral care.
ADA recommends discouraging the habit of thumb-sucking gradually instead of pressuring them to stop abruptly.
How to make my child break the thumb-sucking habit?
To dissuade your child from sucking his or her thumb, you can give him an alternative especially when he or she is under stressful situations. Because most children succumb to thumb-sucking when anxious, you can help them break the habit by resolving their cause of anxiety or allowing your child to depend on you instead during those events.
When your child is bored, occupy his or her hands or distract him or her so the thoughts of sucking on his or her fingers will go away. You can make your child wear mittens or gloves or put a bitter-tasting liquid on his or her nail as a reminder not to suck on his or her fingers.
Experts do not encourage scolding a child on his or her thumb-sucking habit. Instead, explaining carefully to your child the harms of his or her habit.
Patience is always needed when dealing with children. Be patient and gentle in your approach so as not to scare him or her.
Your child’s progress in breaking his or her thumb-sucking habit may be slow and little. In spite of this, compliment your child to motivate him or her to discontinue sucking his or her thumb.
You can also give him or her appropriate rewards for his or her progress or keep a chart for your child to see how far he or she has achieved in breaking the habit. These simple methods can encourage your child and serve as a reminder.
You can also ask your doctor on the best approach to deal with it. Also, visit your dentist and schedule dental check-ups to examine your child’s teeth and mouth development. Since the habit of thumb-sucking can cause oral-related problems, your dentist can help address them as soon as possible and prevent further complications.
While trying to break the habit, always ensure the cleanliness of your child’s fingers to prevent bacteria from entering the mouth and causing diseases. Proper oral hygiene will also be helpful in keeping your child’s oral health in check despite the thumb-sucking habit.