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The Problems with Thumb Sucking


A common worry among parents is whether they should be concerned about their son or daughter’s use of a pacifier, or their thumb will have long term effects on the child’s teeth. To help ease your concern we will address when to start worrying about the habit. The sucking reflex is a very strong natural reflex that begins to develop while still in the womb. Sucking helps a child feel safe, secure, and calm. Studies have also shown that sucking may reduce the likelihood of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Generally speaking, as your child grows the habit and desire to use a pacifier or their thumb will start to decrease. Most children grow out of using a pacifier or their thumb when they become toddlers. If your child is still an avid thumb sucker around 4 years old however, then it is time to take a more drastic approach to kicking the habit.

Aggressive thumb sucking is often heard by a “popping” sound when the child removes his or her thumb. This vigorous sucking action, when prolonged, can lead to changes in the mouth and jaw development of the child. It can also cause future permanent teeth to develop and grow in crooked. A pacifier can create the same problems.

Breaking a pacifier habit is easier than the thumb sucking habit. When it’s time to break the behavior in a pacifier it’s easier to throw away the pacifier and have them quit cold turkey. Each time your son or daughter looks for the pacifier redirect their attention to a different activity. In a few days they won’t have any more interest in them. Quitting the thumb however can be harder, since you can’t just throw the thumb away. Here are a few tips that might help:

  • Peer pressure in school can help deter them from the action.
  • Creating a rewards system that encourages and rewards positive behavior (not sucking)
  • Plan activities that will keep your son or daughter’s hands busy during the day and cover their hands with socks at night
  • Talk with your child about the habit and encourage them to find something else to provide soothing comfort (blanket or stuffed animal)
  • Thumb sucking guards can also be used if the problem doesn’t seem to be resolving.

If you have any questions or concerns over your child’s thumb sucking or pacifier use, don’t hesitate to call our office and speak with one of our staff.

For all of your family, cosmetic or restorative dental needs, we invite you to contact Paris Family Dental. Call us today to schedule your appointment at (903) 732-0061! Visit us at 2333 Lamar Ave, Paris, TX 75460 to learn more about our team, our practice, and how we provide excellence in dentistry in our area.


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