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In times of stress, people have many ways to comfort themselves. For adults, it can be habits such as eating, drinking, or smoking. For children, it is often sucking their thumb, fingers, or a pacifier. Babies have been observed in scans to suck on their fingers and thumbs even before they are born. It makes them feel secure.
When is thumb sucking a problem?
Sucking on fingers or thumbs can be a problem when it is done too vigorously and too long. A young child's jaws are soft and can change their shape to make room for the thumb if the child sucks too hard and too often. If thumb, finger or pacifier habits continue too long, the upper front teeth may tip toward the lip or not come into the correct position in the mouth.
How do you know if your child falls into the group that will suffer from the results of too much thumb sucking? It's best to visit our office so we can check on how the child's teeth and jaws are developing.
What can be done about thumb and finger sucking?
Most children naturally stop sucking their thumbs, fingers, or pacifiers between the age of two and four. The pacifier habit is easier to break than the thumb or finger sucking habit, probably because it is always easier to find their fingers or thumbs. It is a good idea to try to transfer your child's habit to a pacifier at an early age. The next steps are to cut down pacifier usage and gradually stop by 18 months.
If your child is still engaging in these habits at age three, we can recommend strategies for cutting back and stopping. Remember that positive reinforcement, in which a child is rewarded for the desired behavior, always works better than punishment for the behavior you don't like.
Also remember that finger and thumb sucking is normal. Help your child to feel safe, secure, and comfortable as the behavior will probably disappear by itself. If you are worried about your child's sucking a pacifier, thumb or fingers, please visit us to put your mind at rest.
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.”
If you are unhappy with your smile or the way some of your teeth appear, porcelain veneers may be the solution to your concerns. They are a fast, effective, and well-proven method for cosmetically enhancing your smile — and a secret that Hollywood and other celebrities have been taking advantage of for years. To help you determine if they are right for you, here are some questions we typically receive.
A veneer is a custom made thin “shell” or thin layer of a dental ceramic material (usually porcelain) used to replace the front, visible surface of the tooth. They are artistically and hand-crafted using a precise model of your mouth and teeth to achieve a natural look.
Veneers are the optimal choice for correcting small to medium gaps between teeth; slight rotations of teeth causing them to be misaligned; oddly shaped, chipped, or “short” teeth; as well as teeth that are discolored or unevenly colored. However, veneers have their limitations, too. They cannot correct bite issues, poor tooth position, or profile issues. It is also important to note that if you have this procedure, we will typically need to remove a small amount of enamel from your teeth to accommodate the veneer and produce dramatic improvements to your smile.
While they can vary widely from person to person, porcelain veneers usually last from 7 to 20 years. Factors that impact this timeline include your oral hygiene habits, diet, lifestyle, as well as how well you protect your veneers during sleep and while playing sports.
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