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Summer is a Good Time to Ditch the Thumb


Summer is a Good Time to Ditch the Thumb

Now that we’re in the midst of a glorious Michigan summer, full of golf, softball games, trips to the lakes, or just sitting out in the backward, it can seem like school is a long way away.

But it shouldn’t feel like that for your child and his or her thumb sucking. If your child is still doing his best Linus from Peanuts imitation and he’s getting ready to enter preschool in the fall, it may be time to start telling the thumb, like a rider on a rollercoaster at Cedar Point, “Exit to your left. Your ride is over.”

Dr. Egger doesn’t want his patients and their thumbs to get in the way of their long-term oral health.

What is normal when it comes to the thumb?

Thumb sucking is a typical, normal behavior for young children. Thumb sucking can help a child feel secure and happy. It can really be helpful when a child is separated from his parents, such as when going to daycare. Some kids use the thumb or a pacifier to help them fall asleep. Insomniac parents sometimes wonder if they should go back to the thumb themselves!

OK, but it can’t go on forever

You don’t want the thumb sucking to continue on into school. In fact, the American Dental Association recommends discouraging thumb sucking by the age of four. By this time, prolonged sucking can begin to affect the proper development of your child’s mouth, jaw, and teeth. Continued thumb sucking can cause the permanent teeth to be misaligned, and that only spells the need for orthodontics later on.

If it continues into the five or six-year-old age the pressure from sucking will lead to changes in the mouth and teeth. The ADA says that the front teeth may begin to jut forward and the child’s bite will begin to open, meaning the upper and lower teeth won’t be able to touch. As the permanent teeth descend, they will start to become misaligned.

Yeah, but how do I stop it?

You probably don’t need to do what your parents may or may not have done to get you to stop with the thumb. Stuff like hot sauce and all isn’t the way to go. Various pediatricians have said the best way to discourage an unwanted behavior is to ignore it. Most kids start to get the idea in playgroups and such that they are the only one still sucking their thumb, and one day they simply stop.

But that’s not always the case; so if the thumb is still in play, try these tricks:

  • Offer a pacifier to infants. They are easier to take away, obviously.
  • Establish a chart and reward system, plotting progress on quitting.
  • Encourage and praise all attempts to stop thumb sucking in your child.

Summer is a good time to break the thumb sucking before school in the fall. If you have questions about how to do so, call us at Dr. Egger’s, (989) 773-3560.