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Tips to stop thumb sucking in kids

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Thumb sucking is a habit that can start in the womb, it have been proven to soothe the little ones, and can begin as early as 10 weeks. No wonder it can be a difficult habit to break! We explore some ways that you can help in this article all about how to stop thumb sucking in your children.

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First of all though, let’s explore some of the other important aspects of thumb sucking. Typically, those that form the habit, tend to stop at about 3-4 years. This is because they have other ways of expressing themselves, such as speaking. Peer pressure can also cause kids to stop, BUT there are some that continue well into the ages of 7 – 11 according to the British Orthodontic Society, particular girls.

Why should be discourage thumb sucking in our children

Thumb Sucking in Kids
Source: KiddyCharts

Award winning orthodontist, Dr Chaw-Su Kyi, from the West London Orthodontist practise, explains what pro-longed thumb sucking can do to our children, including:

  • Development of issues with growth of the mouth,
  • Problems with the alignment of our children’s teeth,
  • Development of the teeth themselves, as well as the jaw and palate,
  • Changes in how children speak, including the possibility of..
  • Development of speech impediments, including lisping,
  • Inability to pronounce some of the hard consonant sounds, such as “D” and “T.”, and
  • If, when adult teeth begin to come through, children are still thumb sucking, the habit can impact the development of adult teeth

To be specific, with the thumb in the mouth for a long time, the thumb acts as if it were a brace. It can push the upper front teeth forwards, at the same time as moving the lower teeth back. It can also prevent the standard eruption of the teeth at the front of the mouth, result in an over bite.

When should we encourage our kids to stop thumb sucking

Thumb Sucking

There is no definitive answer to this; we decided to stop our son sucking his thumb when he was around four because we were concerned that continuing to suck his thumb would affect the development of both his speech and his teeth.

Stopping earlier, when the teeth have just started to move, means that there is more chance for the teeth to return to normal positions as kids go through natural growth and development. THis could mean that children don’t need the intervention of a specialist orthodontist to correct any problems.

Tips to stop finger or thumb sucking

Thumb Sucking in Kids

It can be easy to put off trying to stop children from thumb sucking because:

  • We know it’ll be hard, and
  • It can actually look rather cute in our own children, but it IS worth tackling.

Start with the child

Stop Thumb Sucking Tips

The most important thing to remember is that for thumb sucking to be stopped, you HAVE to get the buy in of the child. Explaining to them why they need to stop, and perhaps even showing them, will go a long way to helping break the habit. They really do have to want to do it.

Employ a thumb sucking habit breaker

The idea of a habit breaker is to remind children that they have their fingers, or thumbs, in their mouth.

For example, there are varnishes that can be used to paint nails (we used this with our son). More extreme measures are thumb or finger guards, which are worn at all times. Both of these prompt kids to take their thumb or fingers out of their mouth, as it becomes much less comforting to them to continue with the habit.

Fitting an orthodondist brace

These are another option for parents, and would be fitted for about 3 months before the habit stops, and about 2 months afterwards. Braces are fitted that act as a permanent habit breaker. The brace has a small “gate” on the palate which gives the children an immediate reminder to remove their thumb.

Though it can be hard as a parent to make the decision to stop thumb sucking, particularly if it is proving hard, and orthodontists may be required, it is well worth trying. If the habit continues into adolescence, it can have severe consequences for children, including the requirement to have a fixed brace to improve alignment. It may also be that teeth need to be removed to allow space for other teeth to move back to their correct places to maintain a good overbite.

If you would like further advice on stopping a thumb-sucking habit from Dr Chaw-Su Kyi visit www.westlondonorthodontist.co.uk

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