In the previous article we discussed, the causes and bad effects of thumbsucking and now we will shift our focus on how to stop children from sucking their thumb. Thumbsucking as we now know can be much more than a bad habit as it affects the oral health of the child.
First let’s understand what approach we should not take to get the child to quit thumbsucking. Shouting at children, punishing them or mocking them is not the way to get them to quit and probably get them more hooked on to the habit. You might be able to get the child to quit thumbsucking but might hurt him emotionally or have psychological impact on him.
Now, let’s take a look at possible remedies for thumbsucking.
- Admit the problem infront of the child. Let him know that its something he should rather do away with. Convey this casually and not in a strict manner.
- Try finding the cause of the thumbsucking. Is it just a casual habit or the child does it in times of stress and address this.
Offer a reward for not sucking.
- Wrap a cloth around the child’s thumb. This should discourage him from sucking his thumb.
- Put some bitter material on the child’s thumb to discourage the habit such as Cayenne pepper, quinine, and asafetida. Some doctors term it as cruel though.
- A very popular therapy which has been shown to be effective is the mirror therapy. Make the child sit in front of the mirror daily for few minutes and suck his thumb. Eventually, the child feels embarrassed and realizes the silliness of the habit.
- An orthodontist can place a orthodontic appliance which will deter thumbsucking. Generally a fixed palatal crib is placed on the palate.
- Thumbguards are also known as good deterrents to thumbsucking and can be employed.
Thumbsucking is commonly associated with infants as most of the infants are seen sucking their thumb. Although, it might appear a harmless bad habit, it can lead to dental and speech problems. This article will deal with why children suck their thumb and what problems can arise out of it. The next article will deal with how to get children to quit thumbsucking.
Why children suck their thumb?
Some babies develop the thumbsucking habit while in the mother’s womb itself where as others start this habit after their birth. Sucking in newborns is just an instinct for survival. They associate sucking with food (milk) and thus comfort and survival.
Sucking in children is a pleasure and comfort giving activity and can hence be attributed to psychological needs. Thumbsucking stimulates the brain to produce endomorphins which are the mood-altering chemicals. These endomorphins gives pleasure and comfort while the child sucks his/her thumb making the child habituated to it.
Many infants tend to stop the habit at around 1 year but quite a few carry on beyond this age. Experts have observed that thumbsucking habit beyond the age of 5 is very detrimental.
The typical parents reaction to this habit is shouting and nagging at the habit which makes it harder for the child to quit.
Punishing children for the habit is no way to get the child to quit thumbsucking and makes the child more adamant towards the habit.
Generally, as the child gets to the age of 4-5 years, he gets busy in his schedule such as school, playing with other children and other activities. This makes the child somewhat independent and he tends to forget about thumbsucking. He is too engrossed in other activities to think about thumbsucking. But some children do not quit this habit and here parents need to adapt a careful approach in order to get their child to quit thumbsucking.
What problems can thumbsucking give rise to?
Thumbsucking has a major impact on the oral health of the child after the age of 5 years. It is the best to get the child to quit it around age 3.The upper front teeth are pushed forwards and the lower front teeth are pushed backwards. This does not create a problem though. This is because even if the baby teeth get misaligned, this has no effect on the permanent teeth which will start erupting at the age of 6-7 years.
- The roof of the mouth (palate) will be pushed upwards causing a range of problems including speech problems.
- Narrows the dental arches.
- Reshape the jawbone.
- Misalign the teeth.
- Apart from the dental problems, thumsucking can give rise to other problems such as ugly callous on thumb.
- Infection of the thumbnail.
- Increased risk of pinworms.
Increased risk of other infections.
Continue reading: How to get children to stop thumbsucking.