Wean your child from thumb-sucking

Wean your baby from thumb sucking-300
Wean your baby from thumb sucking-300
Wean your baby from thumb sucking-300

Babies have natural sucking reflexes. This is why you’d often find them putting their thumbs or fingers into their mouths. This is also likely to happen even before birth, while in the womb.

Thumb-sucking makes babies feel secure, so some may eventually develop a habit of thumb-sucking when they're in need of soothing or going to sleep.

Finding ways to help your baby stop the habit will be beneficial to their dental health in the long run.

Help your child wean off thumb-sucking

Many thumb and finger sucking children have a gap between their upper and lower teeth. Their jaw development changes and this often causes speech problems.

This leads to tongue muscles not developing correctly, which leads to difficulty when they try to make speech sounds like “s” and “th”. Prolonged thumb-sucking can deform your child's upper dental arch and cause a cross-bite, protruded teeth, and create an open bite.

The extent of these consequences come from the duration of the habit, the frequency of it, and the way in which the thumb is placed into the mouth.

Harmful effects of thumb-sucking include:

  • Deformities: Oddly shaped fingers or thumbs.
  • Infections: Due to the constant soaked areas, the skin gets irritated and infected.
  • Social: The child may be teased at school.
  • Dental and facial: The intense negative pressure that is created in the mouth affects the facial muscles, teeth and the jaws. The upper jaw becomes more “v” shaped. The upper front teeth flare outward. The lower front teeth tip inward. 

This results in your child having an “open bite”; where their anterior upper and lower teeth don’t meet when they bite. This in turn affects their speech, chewing, swallowing and facial appearance.

Coping with your child’s habit Studies have shown that most children want to stop by the age of six and all they need is guidance. Your role as a parent is to guide them without any pressure. Be firm but calm. Support them every step of the way. 

Make your child aware of the habit

The habit may be an unconscious one and you need to identify it with your child. Calmly point out what you don’t like about the behaviour and why. Educate them about “bad” germs that live on their fingers and that go into their mouths and make them sick. A little exaggeration may help!

Keep track 

Observe and identify when and how often your child sucks his thumb. This will help determine how serious the problem may be. 

Distract him

By identifying the exact times your child thumb-sucks, you’ll know when to quickly intervene by offering him something to occupy his hands with, like doing a puzzle or playing with a ball.

If bedtime is when they’re most likely to thumb-suck, offer the child a soft ball to squeeze instead. Tell him if he squeezes and holds on to the ball all night, it will magically turn into another toy the next day. You may need to create a reward system and replace the ball with a little treat each day!

Control the temptation

Topical bitter substances, bandages and glove-like devices are normally used and worn on the offending finger.

Dental appliance

Placing a fixed appliance in the child’s mouth (over the age of six) can stop the habit in its tracks. It has a “gate” or “crib” like wire that lies behind the upper front teeth and prevents the thumb from getting to touch the palate.

Allow your dentist to assess your child at an early age.

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