My Blog

Posts for tag: thumb sucking

TakePositiveActionwithYourChildsThumb-SuckingHabit

As a parent you’re concerned with a number of issues involving your child’s health, not the least of which involves their teeth. One of the most common is thumb-sucking.

While later thumb-sucking is a cause for concern, it’s quite normal and not viewed as harmful in infant’s and very young children. This universal habit is rooted in an infant swallowing pattern: all babies tend to push the tongue forward against the back of the teeth when they swallow, which allows them to form a seal while breast or bottle feeding. Infants and young children take comfort or experience a sense of security from sucking their thumb, which simulates infant feeding.

Soon after their primary teeth begin to erupt, the swallowing pattern changes and they begin to rest the tongue on the roof of the mouth just behind the front teeth when swallowing. For most children thumb sucking begins to fade as their swallowing pattern changes.

Some children, though, continue the habit longer even as their permanent teeth are beginning to come in. As they suck their thumb the tongue constantly rests between the front teeth, which over time may interfere with how they develop. This can cause an “open bite” in which the upper and lower teeth don’t meet properly, a problem that usually requires orthodontic treatment to correct it.

For this reason, dentists typically recommend encouraging children to stop thumb-sucking by age 3 (18-24 months to stop using a pacifier). The best approach is positive reinforcement — giving appropriate rewards over time for appropriate behavior: for example, praising them as a “big” boy or girl when they have gone a certain length of time without sucking their thumb or a pacifier. You should also use training or “Sippy” cups to help them transition from a bottle to a regular cup, which will further diminish the infant swallowing pattern and need for thumb-sucking.

Habits like thumb-sucking in young children should be kept in perspective: the habit really isn’t a problem unless it goes on too long. Gentle persuasion, along with other techniques we can help you with, is the best way to help your child eventually stop.

If you would like more information on thumb sucking, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Thumb Sucking in Children” and “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”

By Gallery Dental
October 19, 2016
Category: Oral Health
EncourageYourChildtoStopThumbSuckingbyAge4

There's something universal about thumb sucking: nearly all babies do it, and nearly all parents worry about it. While most such worries are unfounded, you should be concerned if your child sucks their thumb past age of 4 — late thumb sucking could skew bite development.

Young children suck their thumb because of the way they swallow. Babies move their tongues forward into the space between the two jaws, allowing them to form a seal around a nipple as they breast or bottle feed. Around age 4, this “infantile swallowing pattern” changes to an adult pattern where the tip of the tongue contacts the front roof of the mouth just behind the front teeth. At the same time their future bite is beginning to take shape.

In a normal bite the front teeth slightly overlap the bottom and leave no gap between the jaws when closed.  But if thumb sucking continues well into school age, the constant pushing of the tongue through the opening in the jaws could alter the front teeth's position as they erupt. As a result they may not fully erupt or erupt too far forward. This could create an open bite, with a gap between the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are closed.

Of course, the best way to avoid this outcome is to encourage your child to stop thumb sucking before they turn four. If, however, they're already developing a poor bite (malocclusion), all is not lost — it can be treated.

It's important, though, not to wait: if you suspect a problem you should see an orthodontist for a full evaluation and accurate diagnosis. There are even some measures that could discourage thumb sucking and lessen the need for braces later. These include a tongue crib, a metal appliance placed behind the upper and lower incisors, or exercises to train the tongue and facial muscles to adopt an adult swallowing pattern. Often, a reward system for not sucking their thumbs helps achieve success as well.

Thumb-sucking shouldn't be a concern if you help your child stop before age 4 and keep an eye on their bite development. Doing those things will help ensure they'll have both healthy and straight teeth.

If you would like more information on thumb sucking, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”

By Gallery Dental
October 18, 2013
Category: Oral Health
ThumbSuckingHarmlessHabitorPotentialProblem

For many parents, the image of an infant intently absorbed in sucking a pacifier — or her own thumb — is one of the cherished memories of babyhood. But if this habit goes on for too long, it can cause problems with the child's bite. Want to know what the potential predicaments are, when you should be concerned about the behavior, and what you can do? Read on!

Thumb sucking is a natural, comforting behavior of humans (and some other primates) related to nursing. It usually goes away on its own by the time the permanent teeth are coming in. But it can be a hard habit to break — and if it becomes a persistent behavior, the consequences may include a problem called an “open bite.”

In a normal bite, the top teeth slightly overlap the bottom teeth. When the thumb (or any other object) constantly rests between the upper and lower teeth, however, the pressure it exerts may prevent the teeth from fully erupting (coming out from the gums into the mouth) and alter the shape and development of the upper and lower jawbone. This result is a gap between the upper and lower teeth.

The same problem may also be caused by prolonging the “infantile swallowing pattern,” a forward-thrusting position of the tongue which, like thumb sucking, normally begins to cease around age four. That's when it is replaced by the adult swallowing pattern, where the tongue is held behind the teeth, against the roof on the mouth. Researchers believe that most open bites result from the failure to change from the infantile to the adult swallowing pattern.

When should you be concerned about the thumb sucking habit? If the behavior continues much past toddlerhood, or if the sucking is particularly active, you may wish to have us evaluate your child's bite. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends having the habit stop by age 3. Persistent thumb sucking can actually push the teeth forward and change the growth patterns of the jaw, creating more difficult problems.

There are several methods for controlling the behavior and correcting problems with the bite. One is an appliance called a “tongue crib.” This thin metal device is placed behind the upper and lower incisors. It discourages thumb sucking, while at the same time helping to keep the tongue from inserting itself between the upper and lower teeth. Eliminating these unhelpful habits is essential to allow the teeth to erupt into proper position and to allow for the normal development of the jawbones.

Recent research has also shown that individualized exercise routines called orofacial myofunctional therapy (OMT) can be highly effective in preventing open bite relapses. These exercises are designed to retrain muscles in the face, tongue and lips, and can help to create good chewing and swallowing patterns.

If you would like more information about thumb sucking or children's bite problems, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about these issues by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects The Bite.”

By Gallery Dental
February 15, 2013
Category: Oral Health
IsThumbSuckingReallythatBad

If you asked a room full of parents about their opinions on thumb sucking and pacifiers, the odds are good that you would get a wide variety of opinions. The truth is that this habit is a perfectly normal behavior in babies and young children; however, it is something that parents and caregivers should monitor. This is why we want to share a few basic myths and facts to set the record straight.

So how early does thumb sucking start?
It is interesting to note that thumb sucking for some babies actually starts before birth. This fact is proven quite often when expectant mothers “see” their unborn child sucking fingers or a thumb during a routine mid to later term sonogram. Sucking for babies is absolutely normal; it provides them with a sense of security. It is also a way they test, make contact and learn about their world.

At what age should a parent be concerned if their child still sucks a pacifier, finger or a thumb?
Recent studies have shown that if a sucking habit continues after the age of two, there may be some long-term changes in the mouth that have can have a negative impact on jaw development and/or with the upper front teeth. (It can cause these upper front teeth to become “bucked” or protrude forward towards the lips.) The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents and caregivers encourage children to cease this habit by about age three.

Do children ever stop this habit on their own?
Absolutely! If left alone, many children will naturally stop sucking their fingers or thumb between the ages of two and four. The main points to remember are that sucking habits are totally natural and should stop on their own. You should not make it a problem unnecessarily. If, however, your child is getting older and still seems dependant upon this habit, feel free to contact us today to schedule an appointment for your child or to discuss your specific questions about pacifiers and finger or thumb sucking. You can also learn more about this topic by continuing to read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Thumb Sucking in Children.”

For many children, thumb sucking is a great source of comfort. However, for some parents, it sets off potential red flags. See how much you really know about thumb sucking by taking our quick and easy true/false self test.

  1. Thumb or finger sucking is a totally normal behavior for babies and young children that should not cause any concerns for parents or caregivers.
    True or False
  2. One of the main reasons babies and young children suck their thumbs or fingers is that it provides a sense of security.
    True or False
  3. Sonograms have revealed that some babies actually begin sucking their fingers or thumbs in their mother's womb, before they are even born.
    True or False
  4. Recent research has shown that children using a pacifier after the age of four may cause long-term changes in the mouth.
    True or False
  5. Most children who suck their fingers or thumb tend to stop this habit on their own between the ages of two and four.
    True or False
  6. One of the biggest myths about thumb sucking is that it can cause buck teeth (the teeth tip outwards towards the lips).
    True or False
  7. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children stop using a pacifier and/or thumb or finger sucking by the age of three; however some recent studies suggest that this should stop as early as 18 months of age.
    True or False
  8. Breaking a pacifier habit is often much more difficult to break than a finger or thumb sucking habit.
    True or False
  9. Dipping a pacifier, finger or thumb in vinegar is a recommended way of stopping the habit.
    True or False
  10. For the most challenging cases, we may suggest that your child needs a mouth appliance that a blocks sucking habits.
    True or False

Answers: 1) False. While it is a totally natural habit, parents and caregivers should monitor thumb or finger sucking. 2) True. 3) True. 4) False. It is not age 4, but rather age 2. 5) True. 6) False. This is NOT a myth but rather a fact. 7) True. 8) False. It is easier. 9) True. 10) True.

If you are having trouble getting your child to stop using a pacifier, thumb or finger sucking habit, we are an excellent resource for working with you and your child to accomplish this goal. To learn more on this topic, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Thumb Sucking in Children.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions.