Does your child suck their thumb? Don’t panic; it’s natural—ultrasound shows that babies suck their thumbs even before they are born! And around 50% of children indulge in thumb or finger sucking at some stage.
The damage thumb sucking causes
If your child does suck their thumb, it is important they don’t do it for too long. You see, the pressure caused by sucking can push a child’s teeth out and away from each other causing them to stick out. It can also damage the structure of the roof of a child’s mouth.
In reality, thumb sucking causes very little — if any — damage during a child’s early years. However, if they continue the habit when their adult teeth begin to erupt (at around six or seven years of age), they can experience the problems described later on.
To get an idea of the extent of your child’s habit, inspect their fingers or thumbs — you may see calluses or blisters.
Why do children suck their thumbs?
Babies are hard-wired to suck — it’s how they eat. Most babies, though, stop sucking their thumbs at around six months of age. Children who continue sucking their thumbs for longer usually do so when tired, bored or need comfort. It’s not having something in their mouth that they like, rather the pleasure they receive from sucking.
How to stop the habit
There are several things you can do to nip the habit in the bud. For example, you can try “mind games”, and tell your child that Santa’s security cameras are watching, so they had better stop if they want to stay off Santa’s naughty list. Not exactly honest, but it can work..
Here are some other solutions:
- Varnish — apply a varnish, which tastes really bad, to your child’s fingers or thumbs. Unfortunately, it’s not too hard to lick off, though.
- Old sock — put a smelly old sock on your child’s hand. Most little girls particularly are horrified by the thought of going anywhere near a smelly old sock.
- Pretty ring — give your daughter a ring to wear on the offending finger or thumb. Her desire to look after the ring can discourage her from thumb or finger sucking.
- Thumb guard — this is an oversized silicon tube that fits over the thumb. It is attached to a clip on a child’s wrist, which prevents them from taking it off. Of course, your child can still put the tube in their mouth, but they won’t enjoy the sucking sensation.
- Thumb crib — your orthodontist can attach a thumb crib to your child’s top molars. It is like a little gate that acts as a reminder that no thumbs are allowed.
So, there are several ways to prevent a child sucking their fingers or thumb. Some may seem a little drastic, a bit sneaky, but if they prevent problems later on, they’re well worth it.