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Thumb sucking prevention Fairhope, AL Dentist

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The body's natural instinct to suckle at birth is a strong one - so strong in fact, that a newborn infant can feed from the breast just minutes after being born. However, most parents quickly find out that the urge to suck goes well beyond the need for sustenance - it acts as a natural soothing mechanism to get babies and young children through such things as colic, teething pain and even lulling them to sleep. Here are a few helpful tips from your Fairhope dentist for prevention thumb sucking. 

At some point in the first few months of life, a baby will use his thumb or a pacifier as a "security blanket." Whether this behavior continues on depends on the individual child, and many will lose interest in comfort sucking as they figure out other ways to cope and self-soothe. For some babies though, the need to suck continues for many years. As a Fairhope, AL  dentist  here are some tips to prevent thumb sucking:

Thumb sucking has been a hot topic of debate since the beginning of time. The wealth of expert opinions has run the gamut from "always let a child such his thumb if he wants" to "NEVER let a child suck his thumb." These days, experts are more inclined to meet in the middle - let the child suck his thumb (or a pacifier), but don't let it continue past the age of three or four. According to the AAPD's Fast Facts, parents shouldn't be concerned with thumb sucking - it's natural and normal. However, once a child reaches pre-school age, thumb sucking can lead to jaw and tooth misalignment.

Although most children outgrow the need to comfort suck their thumb or pacifier, sometimes a parent has to intervene and help a child stop the habit. When should a parent step in? If the child is embarrassed by the sucking in daycare or pre-school or if dental problems begin to present themselves, it's time to step in. According to the Mayo Clinic, positive reinforcement is the best way to help the child kick his thumb-sucking habit.

If your child uses a pacifier, your job is a little easier because you can take it away during the times you don't want your child to have it. Begin by explaining that big boys don't use pacifiers and make sure you tell him how proud you are that he is growing up. Don't worry if the thought of giving up the pacifier distresses your child: just explain that he won't have to give it up all at once and that you'll work on it together.

Begin by taking the pacifier away during specified times at home. Don't attempt to withhold it while away from home - this only causes much undo stress and frustration on his and your part. Maybe call mealtimes "pacifier-free" times, or maybe when he's watching TV. Little by little, increase the amount of time at home that he is not allowed to have the pacifier. Save bedtime for last.

Kicking the thumb sucking habit is a little tougher simply because you can't take the thumb away. By offering much praise and encouragement, and even rewards for not sucking his thumb, it shouldn't take long before he feels less and less inclined to comfort suck. Try to identify the triggers that cause him to suck in the first place and either avoid or adapt to help him stop thumb sucking. For instance, if bedtime is a big trigger, try giving him a soft stuffed animal or a back rub as a means to soothe him.

For futher questions on thumb sucking prevention please call your Fairhope, AL dentist at 251-550-7770. Do not hesistate to schedule a consult on you, or your childs teeth. At SweetWater Dentistry we are always here to help! 

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