Have you ever found yourself wondering “how do I get my child to stop sucking their thumb?” If so, you are not alone. Children suck their thumbs as a measure of comfort in times of incomprehensible stress. Generally by the time they reach age four or five, they have developed other means of coping with stress and stop sucking their thumbs. If they persist in the behavior beyond the age of six, or you would simply like to discourage it as they grow older, there are a few methods you can use. While it is not necessarily a bad thing for them to suck their thumbs at a young age, it can be a sign of other issues later in life. If an older child continues to suck their thumb, it might be a sign that they suffer from anxiety. Additionally, prolonged thumb sucking can lead to dental issues, speech problems and self-esteem problems.
Following are a number of methods to help reduce thumb sucking:
Encourage them with creative activities—particularly those that occupy the hands. Puzzles, games and crafts are all excellent ideas.
Limit television time. Many children will suck their thumbs while they watch TV.
Apply a bandage or a bad-tasting substance to their thumb. When they begin to suck, the taste will dissuade them.
Avoid punishing them for sucking their thumb, while offering praise when they continue to avoid the habit.
Breaking the habit during sleep is somewhat harder. Remind your child why you are encouraging them to break the habit. The changes to their facial structure and social image are good deterrents. When you notice them sleeping with their thumb in their mouth, move it away gently. Remind them before bed to try to avoid sucking their thumb.
Thumb sucking is a response to stress. While you attempt to break this habit, try to limit your child’s stress in daily life. Make sure they eat enough and get enough sleep. Try to avoid punishing them for sucking their thumb, as the additional stress can cause further thumb sucking. If your child continues to suck their thumb after these methods have been tried, you might wish to consult a pediatrician or dentist about various devices and techniques you can try.
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With that in mind, we wanted to let you know that we have put proper protocols in place and have access to personal protective equipment for all our staff to serve you in a safe and healthy environment.
As healthcare professionals, dental offices are some of the most prepared to keep patients safe as we re-open – as we already follow strict infection control procedures in our regular practice.