Even though seeing a child suck their thumb may look innocent and even sweet, the harmful effects of a thumb sucking habit can be very serious if the habit goes on too long. A persistent thumb sucking habit that continues past the age of five or so can lead to significant tooth misalignment and/or jaw deformation. The degree of seriousness depends on several factors, including how forceful the habit is and how long the behavior continues.
If your child has a thumb sucking habit, below are a few tips from your friendly orthodontist in Seattle that can help your child break the habit before any serious damage can be done to their teeth and bite.
1. Talk to Your Child About the Habit
Take the time to explain to your child that their habit can cause problems with their mouth or teeth. Because many kids suck their thumbs at nap or bedtime, be present when your child is going to bed so you can gently remind them not to suck their thumb. Tell your child that breaking the habit will help ensure their teeth come in nice and straight, for an attractive smile they can be proud of.
2. Use a Reward Chart
Another good idea is to use a calendar as a reward chart and let your child apply a sticker every day when he/she doesn’t suck their thumb. If your child makes it through a week without sucking, allow him or her to choose a small reward like a trip to a favorite park or a special treat.
3. Use a Thumb Sucking Guard
There are special thumb sucking guards available to try which can help. This type of device is a plastic cylinder that fits over the thumb that’s attached to a wristband, to make the thumb too large to fit comfortably in the mouth. If you decide to use a guard, be positive when introducing it to your child. Tell your child that the guard is not a punishment, but rather a way to help him or her remember to avoid sucking.
4. Visit An Orthodontist!
If you don’t have any luck helping your child break their thumb sucking habit, visit an orthodontist or contact us for an appointment if you live in the greater Seattle area near Burien or West Seattle. Our orthodontist Dr. Jorge Peralta helps children break thumb sucking habits through the use of habit appliances. This is an oral appliance designed to block the thumb from fitting into the palate. We look forward to hearing from you soon!