January 24, 2019
Our Dental Tips and Tricks have been very helpful to many parents in the past. We continue to listen to our parents to learn any new things we can ad to our arsenal.
Thumb or finger sucking
Many parents are so frustrated when they speak to us about their child’s thumb sucking habits. To understand this, a parent must first understand that kids can start sucking their thumb as early as in-utero. This habit may be a very soothing habit that will be difficult to stop.
Most children will suck their thumb as they become tired, stressed, upset, experience change and to relax. Many parents become increasingly frustrated with their child to stop. This may lead to sucking their thumb more frequently. Furthermore, they feel pressure to stop and to comfort themselves increasing the frequency and or the duration of thumb sucking.
The increased frequency, duration and force applied to a finger when sucking has possible dental implications. Chronic long-term thumb sucking can cause crowding and blocking of permanent teeth from erupting or an “open-bite.” Orthodontic intervention at the appropriate age can be corrected with an orthodontic appliance called an expander. The expander widens the palate of the upper jaw making room for teeth to erupt naturally and correcting the elongated narrow arch.
What Can Be Done
When talking to parents about a thumb or finger habit, we highly encourage the discussion to be age appropriate based on the child’s developed reasoning skill level. Until around 3 years of age simply taking your child’s finger out of their mouth once they have fallen asleep may be all you can do to decrease the duration. As your child gets older you can ask them to remove their finger because their hands are dirty from school and how important it is to keep germs out of their mouth. Finally, as they get older and their permanent teeth are getting close to erupting, letting them know that they have a terrific smile and you want them to keep it may be the most positive course of action. Once the top front teeth have erupted and there is no interest in stopping, your child may be referred to the orthodontist to make an appliance that is both an expander with a build in habit appliance. This way your child can succeed with stopping the habit and expanding the palate to correct the elongated upper arch of teeth.
There have historically been several different recommendations to parents to help their child succeed in breaking the finger sucking habit. The two best options that we have found to work via feedback from our parents is Mavala polish. It can be painted on the fingers with a bitter non-pleasant taste or the use of gloves designed for digit sucking cessation.
Parental feedback has been positive that one or the other works well. Waiting until your child becomes older may be the only choice with a dual expander/habit appliance. Remember the key to success is to not make this a war at home between you and your child! It only makes matters worse.
Nail biting is Dr. Mischelle’s biggest feat as she has tried everything to get her son to stop biting his nails. Nail biting it typically due to boredom and/or nervousness. Remember… it is something to do! Therefore, trying to get your child to stop, especially when they are away from home during the day at school can feel impossible. Although there are no detrimental effects to teeth, the increased exposure to colds and flu are increased. “I cringe watching my son do his homework after school while chewing on his fingernails. He says he doesn’t even notice he is doing it. I thought of another tactic to keep his hands busy while doing homework and it works. I bought “Thinking Putty.”
Yes, a gadget to your fingers to keep them busy yet not bothersome to the people sitting close to them in school. Check with your child’s teacher to see if they approve of this before letting your child take it to school with them.
An alternative to the putty is Malava polish. .
Of all my dental tips and tricks my favorite is using good old fashion home made fruitsicles to ease the teething pain! This is so much fun for everyone! Simply pick your child’s favorite fruit and place it in yogurt or your favorite low sugar liquid and let them suck on it. Simply hold it for the really young toddlers and let them gnaw on it. They get soothing relief when they gnaw on a piece of fruit, offering a safe healthy alternative. Tylenol or Ibuprofen can also be used.
We highly recommend that you DO NOT use Oragel for your child for any reason. There have been reports of children that have used Oragel, which numbed their throat, leading to aspiration of their own saliva. One child in particular, who aspirated their own saliva stopped breathing, was air-lifted to the closest hospital.
Finally, we hope that you find our Dental tips and Tricks segment fun and educational. If you have a great dental Tip or Trick to share please contact Wild For A Smile with your stories! Look for us on Facebook!