Thumb sucking is the most common habit of childhood. At nap time, along with a favorite blanket and toy thumbsucking is the most comforting aspect of the kids. According to a recent report, between 75% to 95% of infants are thumb suckers, so chances are there’s a thumb sucker (or a former thumb sucker) in your family or maybe it’s you too.

Is this cause for worry?

In most instances, the answer is NO. But, it is crucial to pay attention to your infant’s habits in case his or her habit has the potential to affect overall oral health.

What is the normal thumb sucking behavior?

Most children start sucking their thumbs or fingers from a very young age. Many even begin within the womb. Sucking is a natural reflex for an infant and it serves an important purpose. Sucking often provides a feeling of safety and happiness for a newborn. It can also be relaxing, which is why many kids suck their fingers or thumb as they fall asleep.

According to the Indian Dental Association, most children stop their habit between the ages of two and four. Kids commonly get out of habit that is no longer helpful to them. However, some children continue sucking beyond the preschool years (although research shows that the older a child, the lower the chances are of continuing the habit).

 If your child is still sucking while his or her permanent teeth begin to erupt, it is time to take action to break the habit.

What signs should I watch for?

First, take note of how your child sucks his or her thumb. If the sucking is passive, with the thumb gently resting inside the mouth, it is less likely to cause damage. If it is aggressive, placing pressure on the mouth or teeth, the habit may cause problems with tooth alignment and proper mouth growth.

If your child keeps the habit for a long time, it can affect the shape of the face along with his or her teeth.

How can I help my child quit thumb sucking?

If you want to break your baby’s thumb-sucking habit, follow these guidelines-

  • Always be supportive and positive. Instead of scolding your child for thumb sucking, appreciate him when he does not.
  • Put a band-aid on your child’s thumb or a sock over the hand at night, rather it is a way to remember to avoid sucking.
  • Start a progress chart and let your child put a sticker up every day that he or she doesn’t suck. If your child makes it through a week without sucking, he or she gets to choose a prize. When the whole month is full, reward your child with something great (a toy or new video game); by then the habit should be over.
  • Making your child an active participant in his or her treatment will increase the willingness to break the habit.
  • If you notice your baby sucking, when he is worried, then work on reducing anxiety instead of focusing on the thumb-sucking.
  • Note how often your child sucked (long car rides, while watching movies) and creates variations during these occasions.
  • Explain clearly what can happen to the teeth if he continues to suck the thumb.

Whatever your method, always remember that your child needs your support and understanding during the process of breaking the thumb-sucking habit.

Also Read: Your kids needs a 6 month dental check-up

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