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Breaking the habit of thumb sucking in children


Is thumb-sucking so bad?
It was cute when she was a little baby, but now she’s almost 3 and her thumb is rarely out of her mouth. Find out the best ways to gently break the thumb-sucking habit.

Is thumb-sucking so bad?
Thumb-sucking is a habit an estimated 75% of babies and toddlers have at some point engaged in – and it is a natural reflex some babies adopt in the womb. Most grow out of it and have stopped by the age of 4. But if you have a more determined thumb sucker you’re probably wondering how the habit is ever going to break.

Dental health professionals advise that it’s important to try to break the habit before children’s permanent teeth start coming in around the age of 6 or 7, as vigorous thumb sucking does affect how teeth grow and may cause crookedness, bucked teeth and other issues.

But parents can gently start discouraging thumb-sucking in earlier years – but the emphasis is on “gently” as there is no need to cause your toddler distress.

How to break the habit
Start the process at a time when you know your child is feeling settled and calm.
Give them a distraction at the times when they usually suck their thumb, sitting with them and giving them a cuddle or a toy.
Be encouraging and reward them for trying to cut back. The rewards might need to be frequent at first but can be stretched out once you’ve had some success.
Try a star chart to record how many days they’ve gone without sucking their thumb.
Work on daytime sucking, then move onto the more difficult night sucking. Some mums find success putting a plaster strip on the thumb at bedtime.
Remember, for some kids, the lure of the thumb is far more powerful than any reward you can offer.
What the dentists say
Kids who suck after the permanent teeth come risk having crooked teeth, especially if the sucking is forceful or frequent.
The Australian Dental Association recommends that if your child hasn’t stopped thumb-sucking by the end of their first year of school, you should see a dentist for advice. – kidspot.com

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