Thumbsucking is a common habit for young children — and it can even be pretty darn cute sometimes. Kids suck their thumbs to soothe themselves during moments of anxiety or discomfort. The habit usually goes away between the ages of 2 and 4 as kiddos become more comfortable in certain situations or learn other ways to soothe themselves.
If your little one continues to suck their thumb past the age of 5, however, the habit can take a serious toll on their oral development. This is the time when the permanent teeth begin to erupt, and constantly having the thumb in the mouth can affect the way the teeth and jaw bone develop. Thumbsucking may create the need for complex treatment with braces in Parsippany later on, so stopping the habit sooner rather than later is important.
How to Break a Thumbsucking Habit
There are several methods for helping your child ditch thumbsucking. Start by talking about it! Because most kids will suck their thumbs in times of anxiety or stress, it can help to ask them why they feel afraid. Be careful not to criticize or punish them for the habit, as this may make them even more inclined to suck their thumb.
Instead of making the thumbsucking seem like a problem to be dealt with, try to empower your child to stop the habit on their own. The next time you see them with a thumb or finger in their mouth, gently ask if they realize they’re sucking their thumb right now. Bringing a little bit of awareness to the habit can help them eventually drop it.
You may also want to help your little one pick up other ways to soothe themselves besides turning to a finger or thumb. Try to get them to transition to a new soft blanket or a favorite stuffed animal. Explain that this can be their new comfort item — when the time is right, they will likely be more than capable of giving up the habit.
Oral Devices That Can Help
Some children will require a little extra intervention to stop thumbsucking from damaging their oral development. Your dentist can help with an orthodontic appliance called a thumb crib. This metal device is affixed directly behind the front teeth, blocking the space where the thumb would rest during thumbsucking. This is a highly effective non-invasive treatment that can promote the proper development of the oral cavity and reduce future treatment times with braces.
It shouldn’t take long with the use of a thumb crib before the habit is broken — and everyone will rejoice, including your child! At Rauchberg Dental Group, we provide thumb cribs and other appliances as part of our comprehensive orthodontic treatment plans. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to talk about breaking a thumbsucking habit!
Meet the Practice
The team at Rauchberg Dental Group offers high-quality dental care for patients of all ages and stages of life. If you’re having trouble getting your little one to kick thumbsucking and wish to learn more about thumb cribs, you are invited to contact your orthodontist in Parsippany at 973-718-9887.