Thumb sucking is one of the most common habits of children. The habit starts early in life. About 70% of newborns show some form of hand sucking by 2 hours after birth.
Thumb sucking is normal in infants and young children. It should cause no permanent problems if it stops by age 5. It is also harmless for babies to use pacifiers but it should be sterilised before and after use.
As children get older, they may develop the habit of finger or thumb sucking. Unfortunately, thumb sucking can have long-lasting negative side effects if the habit persists past age four.
The Possible side effects of prolonged or intense thumb sucking includes:
Open Bite:. The most serious permanent side effects of thumb sucking are types of dental malocclusion.
Malocclusion is a categorical term that describes tooth misalignment that is visible when the mouth is closed.
Two of the most common types of malocclusion caused by thumb sucking are open bite and overbite.
The Effects of Thumb Sucking are:
1. Open bite: Open bite occurs when the top and bottom front teeth become directed outward. This misalignment means that the front teeth do not touch, even with your child's mouth closed completely.
Open bite may require orthodontic correction in the future or may complicate other dental misalignments that necessitate orthodontic treatment.
2. Over bite: Like open bite malocclusion, overbite occurs when the teeth become directed outward. In an overbite configuration, however, this misalignment is confined to the upper front teeth. This misalignment means that the top teeth cover the bottom teeth when your child's mouth is closed rather than the top and bottom teeth touching normally.
Overbite malocclusion can affect the shape of the face and smile. Individuals with extreme overbites may need extensive orthodontic treatment to correct the issue.
3. Speech impediments: Because thumb sucking affects the development of the teeth, jaw, and palate, the habit can also change how your child eats and speaks. Thumb sucking may cause lisping and other speech impediments, including an inability to pronounce hard consonant sounds like "D" and "T."
Without correct dental care, even high-quality speech therapy may not fully correct these impediments because the deformed sounds are partially caused by the shape of your child's teeth in relation to his or her tongue.
Speech impediments may make it more difficult for your child to communicate effectively. Many children with speech impediments also experience high levels of frustration, anger, and feelings of isolation.
Ways to Stop Thumb Sucking:
Most people need to combine several methods to find success:
1. Talk: Always start by talking to your child about why thumb sucking is a bad habit.
Talking alone doesn’t usually break the habit, but it can help your child decide that he or she wants to quit.
Positive motivation to quit is half the battle. Some things to talk about with your child include:
a. Germs: Thumb and finger sucking spreads germs and makes people sick.
b. Teeth: Sucking pushes teeth forward and can make you look funny, and you might need braces.
c. Teasing: Other kids will think you are still a baby or might tease.
d. Speech: As long as you suck your thumb, it is hard to learn how to speak the right way. You might sound funny.
2. Find your child's favorite thumb sucking times: Watching TV and sleeping are two common times when children fall back into their sucking habits.
Identify your child’s problem times and then have your child help you devise a quitting plan that focuses on these times.
If nighttime is a problem, try putting socks on hands before bed and attaching the socks to night wear sleeves with safety pins.
If watching TV is a problem, try turning off the TV for 5 or 10 minutes every time you catch your child finger or thumb sucking.
3. Sticker chart or positive reward system: Make a sticker chart and provide lots of praise and positive rewards for success.
At first, your child might need a sticker for every hour he or she goes without sucking. If she goes a whole day, she might need a special reward such as extra books at bedtime.
Eventually, you should be able to get to a daily sticker chart. Once your child makes it to about two weeks without sucking, you should take your child out for a treat.
4. Praise the child all day: Find a way to remind yourself or your child’s nanny to praise your child for not sucking at least once an hour. Consider setting an alarm or reminder on your phone.
5. Plastic thumb or finger covers: They are very good and most children can’t get them off. If you keep them on for about two weeks, your child will have kicked the habit.
The problem is that they inhibit hand use, making it hard for kids to play or feed themselves. If your child will suck thumb or fingers on either hand, they will need two plastic thumb or finger covers, rendering them unable to do much for themselves.
In either ways, when it's feeding time, you can remove the plastic covers so the child can eat or when it's play time you can remove it.
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