Posts for tag: thumb sucking

By Edward Joseph, D.D.S.
October 24, 2018
Category: Oral Health
EncourageYourChildtoStopThumbSuckingbyAge4

There's something universal about thumb sucking: nearly all babies do it, and nearly all parents worry about it. While most such worries are unfounded, you should be concerned if your child sucks their thumb past age of 4 — late thumb sucking could skew bite development.

Young children suck their thumb because of the way they swallow. Babies move their tongues forward into the space between the two jaws, allowing them to form a seal around a nipple as they breast or bottle feed. Around age 4, this “infantile swallowing pattern” changes to an adult pattern where the tip of the tongue contacts the front roof of the mouth just behind the front teeth. At the same time their future bite is beginning to take shape.

In a normal bite the front teeth slightly overlap the bottom and leave no gap between the jaws when closed.  But if thumb sucking continues well into school age, the constant pushing of the tongue through the opening in the jaws could alter the front teeth's position as they erupt. As a result they may not fully erupt or erupt too far forward. This could create an open bite, with a gap between the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are closed.

Of course, the best way to avoid this outcome is to encourage your child to stop thumb sucking before they turn four. If, however, they're already developing a poor bite (malocclusion), all is not lost — it can be treated.

It's important, though, not to wait: if you suspect a problem you should see an orthodontist for a full evaluation and accurate diagnosis. There are even some measures that could discourage thumb sucking and lessen the need for braces later. These include a tongue crib, a metal appliance placed behind the upper and lower incisors, or exercises to train the tongue and facial muscles to adopt an adult swallowing pattern. Often, a reward system for not sucking their thumbs helps achieve success as well.

Thumb-sucking shouldn't be a concern if you help your child stop before age 4 and keep an eye on their bite development. Doing those things will help ensure they'll have both healthy and straight teeth.

If you would like more information on thumb sucking, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”

By Edward Joseph, D.D.S.
July 26, 2018
Category: Oral Health
EncourageYourChildtoStopThumbSuckingAroundAge3

One of the biggest concerns we hear from parents is about their child's thumb sucking habit. Our advice: if they're under age 4, there's no need for concern — yet. If they're older, though, you should be concerned about the possible effect on their bite.

Thumb sucking is a universal habit among infants and toddlers and is related to their swallowing pattern during feeding. As they swallow, their tongue thrusts forward to create a seal with the lips around the breast or a bottle nipple. Many pediatricians believe thumb sucking replicates nursing and so has a comforting effect on infants.

Around age 4, though, this swallowing pattern begins to change to accommodate solid food. The tongue now begins to rest at the back of the top front teeth during swallowing (try swallowing now and you'll see). For most children, their thumb sucking habit also fades during this time and eventually stops.

But for whatever reason, some children don't stop. As the habit persists, the tongue continues to thrust forward rather than toward the back of the top front teeth. Over time this can place undue pressure on both upper and lower front teeth and contribute to the development of an open bite, a slight gap between the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are shut.

While late childhood thumb sucking isn't the only cause for an open bite (abnormal bone growth in one jaw is another), the habit is still a prominent factor. That's why it's important that you start encouraging your child to stop thumb sucking around age 3 and no later than 4. This is best accomplished with positive reinforcement like rewards or praise.

If they've continued the habit a few years after they should have stopped, we may also need to check to see if their swallowing mechanism has become stunted. If so, we may need to use certain exercises to retrain their tongue to take the proper position during swallowing.

While you shouldn't panic, it's important to take action to stop thumb sucking before it becomes a long-term problem. A positive, proactive approach will help avoid costly orthodontic problems later in their lives.

If you would like more information about thumb or finger sucking, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite.”

By Edward Joseph, D.D.S.
January 26, 2015
Category: Oral Health
TestingyourKnowledgeontheFactsandMythsofThumbSucking

For many children, thumb sucking is a great source of comfort. However, for some parents, it sets off potential red flags. See how much you really know about thumb sucking by taking our quick and easy true/false self test.

  1. Thumb or finger sucking is a totally normal behavior for babies and young children that should not cause any concerns for parents or caregivers.
    True or False
  2. One of the main reasons babies and young children suck their thumbs or fingers is that it provides a sense of security.
    True or False
  3. Sonograms have revealed that some babies actually begin sucking their fingers or thumbs in their mother's womb, before they are even born.
    True or False
  4. Recent research has shown that children using a pacifier after the age of four may cause long-term changes in the mouth.
    True or False
  5. Most children who suck their fingers or thumb tend to stop this habit on their own between the ages of two and four.
    True or False
  6. One of the biggest myths about thumb sucking is that it can cause buck teeth (the teeth tip outwards towards the lips).
    True or False
  7. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children stop using a pacifier and/or thumb or finger sucking by the age of three; however some recent studies suggest that this should stop as early as 18 months of age.
    True or False
  8. Breaking a pacifier habit is often much more difficult to break than a finger or thumb sucking habit.
    True or False
  9. Dipping a pacifier, finger or thumb in vinegar is a recommended way of stopping the habit.
    True or False
  10. For the most challenging cases, we may suggest that your child needs a mouth appliance that a blocks sucking habits.
    True or False

Answers: 1) False. While it is a totally natural habit, parents and caregivers should monitor thumb or finger sucking. 2) True. 3) True. 4) False. It is not age 4, but rather age 2. 5) True. 6) False. This is NOT a myth but rather a fact. 7) True. 8) False. It is easier. 9) True. 10) True.

If you are having trouble getting your child to stop using a pacifier, thumb or finger sucking habit, we are an excellent resource for working with you and your child to accomplish this goal. To learn more on this topic, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Thumb Sucking in Children.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions.

By Edward Joseph, D.D.S.
February 03, 2013
Category: Oral Health
CanThumbSuckingHarmYourChildsTeeth

Sucking their fingers or thumbs makes young babies feel secure and is completely normal behavior. Babies have been observed to suck their fingers or thumbs even before they are born. But like many comforting habits, over-doing pacifier, thumb, or finger sucking habits may be harmful.

Stop Pacifier Use by 18 Months

Studies have shown that pacifier use after the age of two may cause long-term changes in a child's mouth. We recommend that pacifier use should stop by about 18 months. A pacifier habit is often easier to break than finger or thumb sucking.

Stop Thumb and Finger Sucking by Age Three

Most children naturally stop thumb and finger sucking between two and four years of age, but some children continue this habit much longer. This may cause their upper front teeth to tip towards their lips or to come into position improperly. It can also cause their upper jaw to develop incorrectly. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children stop these habits by age three.

Use of Behavior Management to Encourage Quitting

We offer creative strategies for gentle ways to cut back and stop pacifier use, including behavior management techniques that use appropriate rewards given at predetermined intervals. Meanwhile, make periodic appointments with us to carefully watch the way your child's teeth and jaws develop.

When your child is old enough to understand the possible results of a sucking habit, just talking about what may happen to teeth as a result can often encourage him/her to quit. As a last resort, a mouth appliance that blocks sucking may be needed.

If you are worried about your child sucking a pacifier, thumb, or fingers, please visit us to put your mind at rest. For more information read “Thumb Sucking in Children” in Dear Doctor magazine. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about children's thumb sucking.

By Edward Joseph, D.D.S.
October 23, 2011
Category: Oral Health

One topic we are often asked about is finger or thumb sucking and/or pacifier use — a challenge that most parents or caregivers will likely face with at least one of their children. The first and perhaps most important thing to remember is that it is totally normal for babies and young children to suck their fingers, thumb or a pacifier. It only becomes a problem when it continues as the child ages or if you unnecessarily make it a problem.

For most children, the sucking instinct starts in the womb before birth. This fact is evident, as many expectant mothers are shown their child sucking fingers or a thumb during a mid or late-term sonogram. Once the child is born, the habit may continue because it provides the child with a sense of security. Other research indicates that some babies start sucking habits as a way to make contact with, test and learn about their new world outside the womb. It is interesting to note that most children typically tend to stop finger or thumb sucking habits on their own and without much intervention between the ages of two and four. However, for others it can continue much longer. And that is the scenario that parents and caregivers need to be aware of so that they can monitor sucking habits.

Children who suck their thumbs or a pacifier after the age of two have a higher risk of developing some long term negative effects from the habit. This includes but is not limited to upper jaw development issues and “buck” teeth (upper front teeth that protrude forward out of a natural position towards the lips). For this reason, some researchers feel that children should cease thumb or finger sucking and/or pacifier use by 18 months of age. However, the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents and caregivers encourage children to cease this habit by age three.

If you feel your child is at risk due to his/her age and habits, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for your child. After a thorough exam, we can work with you to create a strategy for helping your child overcome finger, thumb or pacifier habits. To learn more about this topic, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Thumb Sucking in Children.”



Burbank, CA Dentist
Edward C. Joseph, D.D.S.
2701 West Alameda Ave, Suite #503
Burbank, CA 91505
(818) 842-7628

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