Click here to return Home         FAMILY GENTLE DENTAL CARE
                                                        DR. DAN PETERSON

                                                                      1415 SAGE STREET ~ GERING, NEBRASKA 69341 
                                                             
      Call: 308-436-3491       www.dentalgentlecare.com           

| Home | Our Office | Services | Staff | Patient Education | Site Map |

THUMB SUCKING

     Thumb sucking is a common habit among many children.  It is common with children under two and is associated with the need to seek food.  In some infants it can signal fatigue, sleep, hunger, teething and shyness.

     Thirty percent of preschool children continue the habit. Most kids out grow it by 5.  It is may not be harmful unless the child is still doing it at the time their permanent teeth are coming in, which is usually around 4-6.   It is done to comfort your child when they are:

bullet

Bored

bullet

Tired

bullet

Worried

bullet

Feeling stressed

     The intensity of thumb sucking is a factor which determines whether or not dental problems may occur.  Vigorous thumb suckers will have more dental problems.  

Up To Top

Overbite and misplaced teeth due to sucking

     The possible effects of thumb sucking for children after the age of three is:

bullet

Reshape the jawbone because their jawbones are still soft and pliable

bullet

Teeth grow out of aliment and position

bullet

Narrows dental arches which cause the next problem

bullet

Upper front teeth will flare out and tip upward

bullet

Lower teeth will move inward

bullet

Affect growth of child's palate (roof of the mouth) causing:

  1.  Poor tongue placement  

  2.  Problems chewing

  3.  Problems with learning to swallow properly. The tongue plays a major role in swallowing. For people who don't suck their thumb or finger, their tongue goes up behind the roof of their mouth as they swallow and this causes a seal. But, when trying to swallow while sucking the thumb or finger, the tongue is thrust forward, in between the front teeth. This action makes swallowing difficult and will require re-training to correct
    the tongue movement.

  4.  Problems speaking

  5.  Overbite or open bite

  6.  Make tonsils collapse to cause snoring

  7. The skeletal deformities which can develop can lead to insecurities and self-image problems, particularly in children.

bullet

Cause infections to develop around fingernails to spread infectious diseases

Up To Top

Nail biting can cause your child's teeth to be crooked  

It is important to stop the thumb sucking habit BEFORE permanent teeth come in.  Breaking the habit sooner will make it easier for you, the parent, your child and their mouth!

    If they can not stop on their own, by the ages of two to four, they may need help (we have three children who needed this help!)

bullet

Don't pressure your child to stop, this can reinforce the habit

bullet

Talk to them about the reasons and ways to work together to stop the habit

bullet

Praise them when they do not suck their thumb, caught them doing things right!

bullet

If your child's teeth are moving, talk to your dentist for personalized advice.

bullet

Set up an incentive system to reward their progress

bullet

Don't get frustrated with your child; this tends to make the habit worse.

bullet

If they suck because they feel insecure, focus on eliminating the cause of the anxiety or if they do it for comfort, offer them comfort instead of sucking their thumb.

bullet

Have them hold balls in their hands while they sleep so their hands are busy.

bullet

Taping the end of the thumb

bullet

Reward them for NOT sucking their thumbs

bullet

If your child is older, involve them in choosing the method of stopping

bullet
Remind your child of his habit by bandaging his thumb or putting a sock on his hand at bedtime (you may have to duck tape the sock on!)
bullet

Try the nail polish with cayenne pepper (it works well), if they don't chip it off :-) NEVER place this polish on an infant.  NEVER put cayenne pepper on any infant or child's thumb or fingers..it may kill them!

bullet

Have them wear a large shirt with long sleeves.  Button it completely on and tie the arms or rubber band them shut so they can not suck on their thumb.

bullet

Ask your dentist to explain to your child the effects of thumb sucking and encourage him to quit.

bullet

See someone on our list of orthodontist to help you learn more about a "fence" (shown in the picture above), which is an appliance that will help your child to stop sucking their thumb.

Habit reminder or "fence"

Care of Habit Reminder or "Fence"
bulletLimit sugary foods and sodas. Also avoid sticky, chewy, or hard foods as they can break your appliance.
bulletBrush your teeth and appliance with toothpaste each morning and night, and after eating, too.

 Tguard  

     The Thumbguard is a device that is attached to a child's wrist using a colorful bracelet. When attached properly, a child can not remove T-Guard.  The children must wear the appliance whenever they may be tempted to suck. It comes in different bright colors.  The kit comes with an instructional video, the guard and 60 wrist bands.  Once the guard is worn the child can not generate vacuum so the sucking is not that satisfying.  In the morning you can cut the band off.  We advise the use of this device with your child's permission and not force them to use the device.

Actual thumbguard in use

Up To Top

Current Research on Affects of Thumbsucking:

Thumb Sucking After Age 2 Can Lead to Overbite

The ideal age for discontinuation of thumb sucking 
habits is around 24 months.

     Kids who continue to suck their fingers or use a pacifier after the age of 2 may be more likely to end up in the orthodontist's office.  Also kids who used a pacifier or sucked their fingers or thumb by the age of 4 to 5 were more likely to:

bulletdevelop protruding front teeth 
bulletan irregular bite
bulletaffect the development of the jaw 
bulletinfluence the placement of developing teeth

     The current report suggests that even shorter-term sucking can have a notable impact on a children dental health.  Research has shown finger or thumb sucking to be more detrimental to the development of teeth than using a pacifier. Parents should do whatever is necessary to prevent their child from developing a finger or thumb sucking habit, even if that means encouraging a pacifier habit for a while.  The reason for this is that when the child is 2 to 3 years old the pacifier can be thrown away and the habit stopped, it's very difficult to stop a finger or thumb habit, so it's best to avoid them.

     "If a child's sucking habits persist by the time he/she is 36 to 48 mounts of age, professional assistance in habit discontinuation may be warranted to minimize the risk of developing malocclusion".  Early dental visits should provide parents with needed guidance to help their children cease such habits by 36 months of age or younger.
SOURCE: Journal of the American Dental Association, Dr. John Warren 2001;132:1685-1693.
(Picture courtesy  of Creighton University)

Up To Top

February 06, 2008

    Babies & Children Dental Index  Patient Education   Home    Site Map

 

          If you have any questions please e-mail me at: drdpeterson@scottsbluff.net
                                                                                 308-436-3491 Office number

PLEASE NOTE: The information contained herein is intended for educational purposes only.  It is not intended and should not be construed as the delivery of dental/medical care and is not a substitute for personal hands on dental/medical attention, diagnosis or treatment.  Persons requiring diagnosis, treatment, or with specific questions are urged to contact your family dental/health care provider for appropriate care.
This site is privately and personally sponsored, funded and supported by Dr. Peterson.  We have no outside funding.
Confidentiality of data including your identity, is respected  by this Web site. We undertake to honor or exceed the legal requirements of medical/health information privacy that apply in Nebraska.

Copyright 1998-2008 Family Gentle Dental Care, all rights reserved.