Finger habits can damage your child’s teeth. Remember the days when you may have sucked your thumb or finger? Maybe you don’t want to admit it, but it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Most children suck their thumb or fingers at some point in their early life.
These are finger habits and this happens because babies are born with a natural sucking reflex that can turn into a way to calm or soothe them. As long as this form of comfort is a phase which eventually goes away, it can be seen as a natural thing and not too much of an issue. However, if it continues beyond ages 5 to 7, it can become a serious problem.
At the orthodontic practice of John A. Gerling DDS MSD, we are concerned when a child sucks their thumb or finger for more than 4 hours a day. It can cause serious problems with tooth and jaw development as kids are growing. The most noticeable effect of constant thumb-sucking is to push the upper front teeth outward and the lower front teeth inward. Finger habits can also stop front teeth from coming in completely, which results in an openbite or stops the lower jaw from developing the way it should. If thumb sucking goes on long enough, it can cause cheek muscles to press the top molars inward and cause them to bite inside the lower molars, a malocclusion (bad bite) known as a crossbite. If sucking continues past ages 5 to 7, the permanent front teeth will most likely not come in properly.
Thumb sucking can be difficult to stop, especially since it helps some children to deal with anxiety. Watch this excellent video on thumb sucking with helpful hints for parents on what to do.
Listed below are six helpful hints that might help break your child’s habit:
- Praise kids for not sucking, instead of scolding them when they do.
- Work on preventing the cause of a child’s anxiety and providing them comfort in other ways, so they don’t feel the need to suck.
- Distract the child from their habit with a fun activity.
- If a child has older brothers or sister, have them encourage him or her not to suck their thumbs. This may be more effective than if it came from Mom or Dad.
- Have the dentist explain to the child what they are doing to their teeth.
- As a last resort, having a child wear a bandage or glove at night on the finger they usually suck can sometimes do the trick.
We are pleased to provide you with this helpful information and to offer you the finest orthodontic care for you and your family. If you have a child who was a thumb sucker or has current finger habits, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends all children be evaluated by age seven to determine if an orthodontic problem is present.
Contact our office today for a free new patient exam to determine if your child would benefit from orthodontic treatment to counteract the effects of their finger habit.