Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking A sucking reflex is vital for a baby’s survival. As she grows, she will associate sucking with pleasant experiences such as receiving nutrition and tenderness. In order to stimulate those feelings, a child will often develop a thumb sucking habit.

Many children outgrow the habit on their own by the time they are three or four. However, some continue, which can cause damage to their teeth and jaw, create speech problems and the child can suffer physically and emotionally.
Continual, emphatic sucking can affect the shape of a child’s mouth as well as the position of her teeth. As the child sucks on her thumb, she pulls up with the top of her mouth, over time, this causes the mouth to move up and narrow creating a cross bite. A cross bite is when a tooth or group of teeth are moved in and do not align with the lower teeth.
Another problem from extended sucking is an overbite. When the front teeth project too far forward over the lower teeth an overbite has developed. Correcting an overbite must be done with orthodontic care and/or dental procedures.
Speech problems that occur with thumb suckers include: not being able to say Ts and Ds, a lisp and/or thrusting out the tongue when talking. The T and D sounds are made by touching the end of the tongue to the inside of the top teeth. When the thumb is constantly in a child’s mouth, it hinders this movement. The window of opportunity to develop proper fine motor skills needed to communicate clearly is relatively small and if blocked by thumb sucking, can take years of speech therapy to correct.
Illnesses such as the common cold, pneumonia, and chicken pox are spread though viruses and bacteria. Every time a child sucks his thumb, he introduces germs and possible bacteria into his mouth. Tonsillitis, inflammation of the tonsils, can also be caused by bacteria moved to the back of the throat.
Emotional issues range from low self-esteem to feeling alienated by peers. Children often say hurtful thing to their peers or call them names because of a thumb sucking habit. As the child copes by sucking his thumb, he is open to more teasing and the cycle continues.
If stopped at an early age, most issues will correct themselves. Young bodies will naturally realign teeth, children learn to form sounds, and their general health and self-esteem can improve over time.
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