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Thumb Sucking

Breaking the Thumb Sucking Habit: A Path to Better Dental Health for Kids

Discover effective strategies to stop the thumb-sucking habit to promote better dental health for kids. Essential tips for parents to ensure a healthy smile!

Breaking the thumb-sucking habit in children is crucial for dental health. It involves understanding the reasons behind the habit, providing alternative comforts, and seeking professional advice if needed.

Introduction

Thumb sucking doesn’t have to be a serious problem, but if it continues for a long time, it can become one. In particular, thumb sucking can cause long-lasting dental issues and negatively impact children’s oral care. Therefore, breaking the thumb sucking habit is vital – and children often need help in achieving that.

So, what exactly are the best remedies to stop thumb sucking? And how can you ensure you prevent long-term dental issues for your kids? Read on to find out.

Understanding Thumb Sucking in Children

Thumb sucking is a natural reflex which often starts in the womb. As an action it mimics breastfeeding and is an entirely normal process. So, what’s the problem? Simply put, thumb sucking becomes more of an issue the longer it goes on. And this is especially true once a child reaches the age of five. Both the Mayo Clinic and WebMD say that sucking a thumb or fingers after the age of five may cause problems, while the British Orthodontics Society say sucking beyond seven years of age is a concern.

Either way, there is no doubt that prolonged thumb sucking is a common – but risky – behaviour. One in eight childrenin the Western world have sucking habits.

So why do children continue thumb sucking over the long-term? With its ties to the womb and its similarity to breastfeeding, thumb sucking is often used as a soothing mechanism. It helps a child to relax and to feel safe. This can be especially true if they are feeling anxious or unsure about something. Being a child can be difficult, after all! Often a child will be nervous about a new school, a new sibling or a house move, for example. Or they could just be a naturally anxious child. In some circumstances, a child comes to rely on thumb sucking. They may not even realise they are doing it! Other reasons include hunger and boredom. Whatever the reason, it is important as a parent to get to the bottom of why your child is thumb sucking and to offer your support.

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Risks Associated with Thumb Sucking

The most commonly experienced side effects of long-term thumb sucking are dental related. These include a crossbite, which is when a child has improperly aligned teeth that have been pushed forward or upward; an open bite, where the incisor teeth are not placed accurately when closing the mouth; and jaw malformation, where the jaw has not grown correctly due to the constant chewing motion.

And it’s not just dental problems. Other issues caused by long term sucking include speech problems such as lisping, problems with chewing, chapped skin and a tendency to get thumb or mouth infections.

We also find there are often crossovers with similar conditions, such as painful and harmful hair twirling.

Another associated impact can be the loss of confidence and self-esteem. Sadly, we know children can be cruel. Kids who suck their thumb whilst at school can sometimes be taunted or bullied by others.

Hair Twirling

Help your child to stop thumb sucking and hair twirling Read more

Strategies to Discourage Thumb Sucking

How do you help your child to stop? Well, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Often the most important thing to do is to be positive and upbeat. If your child is thumb sucking due to anxiety, the last thing they want is to be told they are “naughty” or “wrong.” It is vital you show your child you are there to help them and that you will overcome this together. Patience is key. One system that is very effective is the use of rewards. Perhaps you can give your child a special treat if they stop thumb sucking for a set period of time – an hour, two hours, half a day or even a day! At Thumbsie® we offer a reward chart for this exact purpose.

Another tried and tested method is using alternative comfort tools, like a stress ball, a blanket or a favourite toy. You can also make sure you keep your child’s hands busy – be creative and do lots of arts and crafts, so they don’t have time to thumb suck! As a rule, we don’t support using a dummy past the age of 12 months.

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When to Seek Professional Help

Fortunately, there are always professionals who are able to help. It can be difficult to know when the right time is to ask for support, but in general, we advise parents to speak with dental experts if their child is still thumb sucking after the age of five. There are many pediatric dental experts, and they are very used to dealing with these types of issues. Many dentists in the UK, and abroad, are aware of Thumbsies® , and we’re thrilled to say they recommend them to their patients. We are also officially accredited by the Oral Health Foundation.

By consulting with a dentist, you can get some peace of mind about your child’s thumb sucking. They can often prevent any long-term damage and if not, they will be able to recommend an orthodontist – although we want to make sure it never comes to that!

Preventive Measures and Early Intervention

As with so many things in life, early intervention is key. Be positive with your child; but be firm. Dental health is such a vital part of overall health, so do encourage your child to keep their mouths in good shape and to regularly brush their teeth. Scare tactics don’t always work, but in some cases, they do, so perhaps consider showing your child photos of crossbites, open bites and jaw malformation, so they are aware of what could happen to them in a worst-case scenario.

Of course, one of the best ways to prevent dental issues due to thumb sucking is to purchase a Thumbsie. Thumbsies® are thumb and finger guards which are placed on the child’s digits using Velcro and fit like a glove. Wearing a Thumbsie® helps remind a child that they are about to suck their thumb and to stop them doing so. If worn day and night, then eventually the habit will become less, and the child will want to suck their thumb less. Thumbsies come in a wide range of different styles and five different sizes. There’s something for everyone!

Success Stories and Parental Advice

Do we have examples of success stories? You bet we do!

We have hundreds of positive reviews to choose from and 4.8 out of 5 stars on Google Reviews.

One happy mum recently told us:

My 6-year-old daughter has sucked her thumb since she was a baby, and I was beginning to think we would just have to accept this. Any other way we’d tried to get her to stop had failed. However, she kept asking us to help her and I came across Thumbsie. The many designs helped as she loves cheetah print fabric, and she took to wearing it straight away at night. After a couple of months of wearing it, she asked to take it off and she now no longer sucks her thumb. I am proud of her for giving this a go and also over the moon this has worked. Thanks, Thumbsie. I would recommend this – even if you feel doubtful.” Alison

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While another said:

“I was sceptical about how these would work as my daughter has sucked her thumb since she was a tiny baby. She showed absolutely no signs of stopping, and she’s now 5, and would need to suck her thumb to get to sleep and whenever she was in the car or watching TV. After just a week of wearing the Thumbsie overnight she has totally stopped!! At all times of the day. Honestly so impressed!” Marie

You can read all the reviews here.

Conclusion

With thumb sucking, dental issues are not an absolute certainty, but the longer it goes on, the more likely it becomes. It really is so important to help your child stop as soon as possible to prevent these long-term issues. With the right positive reinforcement, teamwork – and potentially with the use of a Thumbsie® – your child should be able to stop thumb sucking and prevent any serious dental issues.

Is your child struggling to break the thumb-sucking habit? Discover effective strategies and tips at Thumbsie’s Guide to Stop Thumb Sucking for healthier dental habits!

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Problems with thumb sucking

You may be concerned if it is harmful, at what age should they stop or what could be the long-term effects if they don’t stop. more information
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