Stop ThumbSucking

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There's no question thumb or finger sucking habit will mis-alignment your child's teeth,

or deform his/her jaw. The question is not how, but when?

The degree of his/her teeth damage, and the strength to which finger or thumb

sucking affects a child's jaw, depends on several factors: how persistant the

child sucks, how often, and at what age. Consequently, the habits will

certainly produced problems commonly known as:

* Protrusive upper front teeth: This can be a simple tooth position problem,

where the upper incisor teeth were simply tipped outward. Occasionally the

formation of the upper jaw can be effected, and the upper jaw and teeth will

warp out and away from the rest of the face.

* Tipped back lower incisors: Commonly found with thumb sucking: the pressure

of the thumb forces the lower incisors backward toward the tongue. This

exaggerates the protrusion of the upper incisors - making the face even more


* Distortion of nasal growth: In a long term or severe situation, the nose

will appear to be tipped up. When viewing the child from the front, you can

see right up the nose since it is tipped up at a severe angle by the constant

pressure of the thumb on the under side of the nose. These distortions of the

upper jaw and nasal complex are very difficult to reverse without long term

orthodontic intervention.

* Open bite: The upper and lower front teeth do not overlap when the back

teeth are together. The shape of the opening between the upper and lower

front teeth may match the shape of the child's finger or thumb. This

obviously interferes with the child's ability to bite into food, and will

cause problems with digestion.

* Cross bite: The formation of the upper jaw is too narrow for the lower jaw.

This distortion seems to be due to the flexing of the cheek muscles during

sucking. Severe bite problems occur from these prolonged forces and must be

treated before completion of growth.
What are the variables to consider?

Every child will not express the habit the same way. I once observed a very

content seven year old happily switching between the thumb on her right hand

and two fingers of the opposite hand while watching a movie. The duration and

intensity on either hand was short, but the frequency was constant. Her front

teeth stuck straight out!

* Duration: Before age five, there are usually no jaw deformation problems,

although you may notice the front teeth getting out of line. As an

orthodontist, I usually do not worry too much about these early habits. After

age six or seven, the shape of the jaw may be affected, so some action should

be considered.

* Intensity: Some children suck harder than others and may in turn cause more

damage. In general, the harder they suck, the more damage.

* Frequency: If it is less than one hour each day, and the thumb or finger

falls out at night, the habit is not much of a problem. However, if the child

sucks all night beyond age five, some action may be needed.
When to worry and what to do

A child five years old who wants to quit, but insists he/she cannot help it,

needs emotional support, but while giving support, also think of a plan that

will work. "In my office, says Dr. Echols, "I first ask the child if he wants

to stop. If [the child] responds in a positive manner, I gently get [him/her]

to agree to a method of helping [him/herself]. [That is] giving [the child]

control over [the] problem and [offering] a reward if [he/she] stops for two

weeks. The technique works better coming from a respected authority figure,

rather than a parent." Here's where you'd want to prove these guys wrong.

Struck a Deal with the Child

When you start to think of finger, or thumb, sucking as a monster for which

you need the experts' help to defeat, that's a sign you've ran out of options.

You've resigned to dental expenses, shrinks' and therapists' bills. I can see

the money flying out of your pocket, when there's a simple method you can use

to get spectacular results.

A deal must be struck between the child and the parent to end the finger

sucking, thumb sucking, or nail biting, habits. Unlike many other

practitioners, whom I respect, remedies, I'll introduce an unconventional formula to you that works!

Theirs is based on short term rewards: the parent offers a specialty to the

child, anything the child likes will do, to get him/her to stop for a period

of time, i.e., two weeks. In some cases, ". . . this psychological approach

works 99% of the time when the child says [he/she] wants to stop." But this

approach leaves room for failure: the child gets his/her night out at a

restaurant, but renegs quitting. What do you do then? You'll have to resort to

another method.

Almost all finger, or thumb, suckers have realized they cannot go on sucking

forever, and stopping the habit is expected as they grow older. However,

because finger, or thumb, sucking is embed in the mind, quiting is difficult,

if not seemingly impossible from the strength of the child's perspective.

Relying on the confidence of the child to decide on quitting is wishful

thinking. That's their methods to soothe, comfort and even fall asleep, so

giving that up is like giving up sleep.

However, you don't want to frustrate the sucker with any machenical means.

A Better Methods to Help Your Child to Kick the Habit

The methods to help your child kick the finger, or thumb, sucking habit are

numerous, and the products vary in taste, appearance and application.

Dr. Echols suggests applying ". . . six inches of white, fabric type, bandage

adhesive on the offending finger(s) or thumb." This is a daily application;

it's intrusive and ugly. This is work and is messy. Of course, a child will

not suck on a sock replacing the tape that doesn't work. And even if he/she quits
sucking, that's good, but, in life, he/she'll always depends on obstruction to help him decide
on any matter, rather than the strength of mind, or will to succeed.

Other methods stress attacking the child's taste with bitter-tasting

solutions, like Mavala, nail polish and the like, including thumb guards to

harness the child's fingers. Your child is not in prison, so don't treat

him/her like one. You want him/her to make that critical decision on the strength of
reasoning and will to succeed.

Don't Make it up as You Go

But what if you don't have to make it up as you go? What if you can structure

a deal with the child and don't have to make it up as you go, an agreement

that will not only help your child kick the finger, or thumb, sucking habit,

but teach your child ethics, build character, self-esteem, self-control and

use it now and even after he/she's kicked the habit?

You need a formula that's non-intrusive and will not pressure your child to quit

finger, or thumb, sucking habit, but will build your child's mind to make that

decision base on strength of mind and will, rather than contraptions being

sold on the market.

All the other methods ends when the child quits, but if you get your hands on a formula that keeps on

working to help your child get better grades in school, accomplish a goal set

by you and him/her and beyond, would you take it? Surely, you would prefer a child grow in

strength of mind and determination to succeed, and that's the type of formula you need.

As a mother, you might have a child who sucks two fingers, or thumb. You can help him/her quit finger sucking in a week. For more information about how you can help your child quit finger sucking, please visit:

Finger Sucking

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