Pediatric Dentistry

Is Thumb Sucking Harmful For Your Child?

What is Thumb Sucking?

Thumb sucking is the placement of the thumb or finger at various depths into the mouth. This habit is usually not considered abnormal during the first 2 years of life. But if it extends beyond 4 years, then there is some psychological or habitual bearing to it. In both cases, the habit is considered to be harmful for the child.

What causes your child to start thumb sucking?

Babies have natural sucking or rooting reflexes. The mouth is a source of gratification for the infant. An infant associates sucking with pleasurable feelings like hunger, satiety and being held. Hence it is a normal comforting behaviour in young children. It helps self-soothe, feel secure and help them go to sleep. But if this habit persists as the child grows it calls for concern or visit Credence Dental for an expert’s advice.

It can be due to many reasons like inadequate breast-feeding, insecurity of child due to working parents, greater number of siblings, peer pressure, stress, difficulty in social adjustment. It is seen that the younger sibling, the more the frequency of thumb sucking. In the newborn the habit is due to hunger, in the first few weeks of life due to feeding problems, as a tooth during eruption of back teeth and at a later age due to emotional problems.

How will thumb sucking harm the child?

Because of thumb sucking, the child, when he puts his thumb in mouth, along with just placing it inside the mouth he tries to suck on it and applies a tremendous amount of force against his upper teeth. Due to this, his front teeth become flared and get pushed forward, and gaps start forming in between the teeth causing an unesthetic appearance. Also, because of this force, the back teeth get pushed inwards causing problems in bite which causes orthodontic problems at a later stage.

 The effects of thumb sucking mainly depends on three factors – the duration, frequency and intensity with which the habit is performed. A rise in any of these factors is harmful for the teeth. Thumb sucking can also give rise to other oral habits like mouth breathing and tongue Thursting.

When should I intervene?

Before 4 years of age, the child’s level of understanding complicates cooperation with any of the intervention options. Also, the habit does not cause much harmful effects during this age. But try keeping the child busy in doing anything so that he does not engage in the habit. Care should be taken in that enough time is given to breast-feeding to infants to decrease their urge in sucking habits and also bottle fed infants should be held by their mother and enough time should be given to this process.

After 4 years of age, intervention is needed. Use psychological plays and a reward system for the child. Discuss the problem and its effect on the teeth. Keep a daily record of episodes of digit sucking and check on the child’s progress in stopping the habit. A decrease in the number of times the habit is practiced is evidence of progress and indicates that the child will likely discontinue the habit.

Do not get over anxious regarding the habit and punish the child. This can create greater tension and may even intensify the habit. You should disregard the habit and not mention it to the child.

Use positive reinforcement. A timed reward system may also help. For each day the child refrains from the habit for a set period of time, a star is placed on a calendar. In week 1, the child receives some reward or prize predetermined by the parent if the child refrains from thumb sucking for say, 10 minutes. With each day of success during this time period, the child is praised individually and also through positive comments to family friends and relatives.

In successive weeks, increasing the time challenge, the child refrains from sucking.

The prizes are progressively enhanced in value for the child. The goal is to help the child control the urge to suck. If the child continues to successfully control the habit for 3 months, the long-term chances of stopping the habit are good.

When you are at home, try spending ample amount of time with your child, so that he does not have a feeling of insecurity. After 6 years of age, the psychological approach becomes difficult to implement as the habit has become deeply ingrained in the child, as this the child who has tried to stop but cannot get it done. This requires the use of reminder therapy and dental habit-breaking appliances to stop the habit.

Reminder therapy employs the use of some distasteful or bitter tasting agents on the finger, tying of ace-bandage on the elbow, use of long-sleeve night-gown or mittens. There are various intraoral appliances which prevents the child to put his finger entirely into the mouth thereby robbing the pleasure of sucking. 

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General and Preventive Dentistry Pediatric Dentistry

Brushing Techniques for Children

Brushing a child’s teeth or making children brush is the most tedious chore for any parent. At the
same time it’s the most important oral hygiene habit especially in growing age. As a parent it can
be challenging to help teach your child tooth brushing technique that works for them. To help
you out we have created simple guide to get your children for brushing their teeth regularly
without it feeling like a chore.

When to start Brushing your child’s teeth?

Good oral health habits should begin at an early age. Brushing your child’s teeth should begin
when their first tooth begins to come in or as directed by your pediatric dentist. Children need
help with brushing their teeth until they are 6-7 years of age. Even before your child actually has
teeth, it is important to perform oral health care. Use of damp washed cloth or a piece of gauze,
by gently rubbing it over infants gum helps in cleaning of gum pads. Also an infant’s mouth
should be cleaned after every feeding. This can be done by cradling head with one hand while
using free hand to wipe babies mouth with clean wet gauze.

General Brushing tips for children:

  • To brush an infant’s teeth, use a soft bristled, age appropriate toothbrush. Fluoridated toothpaste
    if given at a smaller age, consult your pediatric dentist first for the exact amount of toothpaste to
    be used.
  • For toddlers, just a smear layer of toothpaste is sufficient to use. For children below 3 years of
    age use rice grain amount of toothpaste, whereas for children above 3 years of age use a pea size
    amount of toothpaste.
  • Children aged 6-8 years are capable of brushing on their own. But still the brushing has to under
    the supervision of parents if the child is unsure whether they have cleaned all areas of mouth.
  • Encourage children to brush their teeth at least twice a day , morning and night with a soft
    bristled toothbrush. Hard bristles are too abrasive for young children.
  • If children are lazy enough to brush their teeth, battery powered toothbrushes can also be used
    which can remove the sticky plaque from teeth easily.
  • Children’s toothbrushes have to be replaced every 3 to 4 months or sometimes sooner too if the
    bristles get frayed. Also if your child has a recent cold or flu, it’s better to replace the toothbrush
    to avoid reintroducing germs associated with those conditions.

Technique for brushing child’s teeth

As children cannot clean their teeth thoroughly, they need guidance. Hence parents have to
supervise children’s brushing until the age of 6-8 years.
Step 1: Brushing for kids has to be in a circular motion. Instead of just rubbing brush on teeth,
make them do circles on front and back teeth one at a time. Count the number of circles to 20
and see to it that circular motion is covering all teeth
Step 2: then angle toothbrush at 45 degrees towards the gum of upper and lower teeth and swipe
Step 3: tell the child to open their mouth and then the toothbrush should be moved gently in
back and forth motion with short strokes on back teeth
Step 4: the tip of the brush should be placed in upright position to reach behind front teeth on
top and bottom
Step 5: Brush the tongue to remove bacteria on the surface.

To get the children in routine brushing, brush your teeth at the same time as them so that they
learn by your example. This also helps to keep a check if children are using the correct brushing

Also you can have a check this way to see if your child is brushing the correct way.
The other way to get the child to brush is by playing their favorite song that they can listen to
while they brush. This way children will enjoy brushing and not think of it as a boring daily

Regular dental visits should usually start as early as six months or when a child’s first tooth
erupts or by child’s first birthday. When children are taught oral hygiene habits at an early age,
they are more likely to continue the same habit throughout adulthood. A healthy smile is a happy
smile, so help your kids to have the best possible smile by teaching them the importance of
brushing their teeth in the correct way.

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