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Thumb Sucking
 
Thumb sucking in children has always caused embarrassment to many parents. The parents were more concerned over the social embarrassment caused by this habit rather than the actual physical damage caused by it.

This silly habit as it appears to many parents not only causes abnormally arranged teeth but also implicates the mental state of the child.

What are the causes of Thumb Sucking?

Thumb sucking can either be a non-compulsive act or a compulsive oral habit. oral habit.

Non-Compulsive act :

As children grow, they pick up or drop habits depending on its acceptability. These habits are usually called non-compulsive habits or acts. Thumb sucking cab be one such habits, which cab be seen from birth to the age of 16. on an average most of the children stop this habit by the age 4. There are some children, however, who can continue the habit to as late as 12-15 years. In these children, thumb sucking is usually a way to relieve the frustration of hunger.

Compulsive act :

Thumb sucking can be called compulsive when it has acquired a fixation in the child to the extent that he retreats to the practice of this habit when ever his security is threatened by events, which occur in his world. Unlike the non-compulsive habit, the child tends to suffer from increased anxiety when he attempts to correct the habit. The habit becomes his safety valve to release emotional pressure, whenever it becomes, too much to cope with. Lack of love and affection by the parents towards the child plays a major role in making the child emotionally insecure and thus making him resort to habits like thumb sucking.

What are the symptoms of Thumb Sucking?

If the habit is discontinued before the permanent teeth eruption, it can be considered harmless.
Continuous thumb sucking leads to many ill effects. The main symptoms of this problem is shown by the teeth and they are:
  • Displacement of the child's permanent teeth due to the uneven forces placed on the teeth by the thumb.
  • The upper and lower front teeth may not approximate with each other
  • The upper front teeth may flare out.
  • The open bite or lack of approximation of upper and lower front teeth may result
  • In speech difficulties during pronunciation. As a result of the flared out or protruding front teeth the child may end up fracturing these teeth more often.
  • Protruding and uneven teeth change the facial appearance. This can cause and inferiority complex in the young mind.
The Danger

If the child doesn't stop thumb sucking in time, it is possible some teeth to get misplaced and require orthodontal treatment.

When it becomes a problem ?
  • Although thumb sucking is normal habit it can cause serious teeth problems if it continues after teeth eruption.
  • The problem gets serious if it continues after the age of four, when the permanent teeth are about to appear.
  • In some cases thumb sucking is substituted by another dangerous habit as placing pencils between the teeth or biting the lips.
How can we diagnose Thumb Sucking?

Any child above the age of 4 with protruding anterior teeth may be affected by thumb sucking. A detailed history about the habit is very helpful. The frequency and duration of this habit can help in evaluating the extent of the habit.

The thumb used by the child normally appears to be very clean compared to the other finger.
  • HOW TO STOP Usually children stop the habit on their own. If they don't:
  • Keep the child's hands occupied(e.g. whit a toy).
  • Ask the advice of a pediatric dentist.
  • Give the example of his friends that have stopped thumb sucking.
  • Don't put the child in a state of anxiety or fear.
  • Avoid punishing the child. That might have the opposite result.