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Discovering the Marvels: Why Babies Suck Their Thumbs & Its Impact on Oral Health

March 25, 2024

Witnessing an infant exploring their world by putting everything in their mouth is a common sight. This form of exploration, known as oral sensory play, aids babies in understanding the texture and taste of objects around them. Besides using their mouths to explore the universe, many little ones find comfort in sucking their thumb or fingers. Typically, these habits dwindle as children grow older and gain greater self-awareness and control over their actions. Generally, most children will give up these activities by the age of four.

What happens when a child's thumbsucking habit continues past the toddler years?

Parents should be aware that if their child's thumb, finger, or pacifier-sucking habit persists during the arrival of permanent teeth, there is an increased chance of developing dental issues such as an improper bite. In other words, if this habit hasn't ceased by age five or six, it may be time to assist your child in breaking the habit in a supportive and constructive manner.

Strategies & Tips for Thumbsucking Habit Control

As children enter their school years, giving up a thumbsucking or finger sucking habit can be quite challenging. Parents must remain sensitive to the child's needs during this period.

To help parents, family members, and caregivers deal with persistent thumb sucking habits:

  1. Identify Triggers: Thumb sucking often provides your child comfort. By identifying situations that trigger this habit, you can work on addressing those triggers to help reduce the frequency of the habit.
  2. Positive Reinforcement: Make sure to encourage and praise your child when they refrain from thumb sucking, reinforcing positive behavior.
  3. Reward System: Implement a reward chart that allows your child to track their progress and earn rewards for thumb-free days. This can serve as an excellent motivator to help them break the habit.
  4. Look to safe physical reminders specifically designed to discourage the habit: Remember, safety is paramount when choosing over-the-counter products like thumb guards or bitter-tasting nail products.
  5. Professional Guidance: Consult with our office for expert advice and evaluation. Our dedicated staff will develop personalized strategies, recommend professionally endorsed products, or make a referral if orthodontic appliances are required to help break the habit.

Monitoring Your Child's Oral Health as They Grow

At Healthy Teeth Family Dentistry, we want every child to enjoy optimal oral health and dental development. As such, our dedicated staff carefully monitor each child's smile throughout their growth and development stages. We assess for any habit-related effects on the teeth or jaws and any changes that might impact speech or other oral functions. If necessary, we will discuss if orthodontic intervention and habit appliance therapy is required to ensure your child maintains a healthy and functional smile.

Ready for Your Next Appointment

If you're searching for a dental practice that cares about your child's oral health as much as you do, look no further! Contact us today to schedule an appointment. We look forward to serving you and your family.