Did you know that thumb sucking is often seen in ultrasounds even before birth? According to a recent report, between 75 and 95% of infants suck their thumbs or fingers.
Although not considered a serious problem by many as far as habits are concerned, if thumb or finger sucking persists longer than it should, some not so pleasant problems develop. The American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) both agree the best time to break the habit is before the permanent teeth grow in, at around the age of five or six. Otherwise, thumb or finger sucking can cause improper alignment of teeth, a high narrow palate, early loss of baby teeth, abnormal swallowing patterns, improper tongue position, facial growth problems, skin infections and/or calluses on thumb/finger, difficulty focusing when thumb/finger sucking occurs in school or during school homework, teasing by peers and speech problems.
Contrary to popular belief, breaking a chronic finger or thumb sucking habit does not cause emotional trauma. Some methods of ending this habit are better than others.
A therapy that has proven at least 90 percent effective is known as behavioral modification. Rather than using an appliance (negative reinforcement) to rid a person of the thumb or finger sucking habit, positive reinforcement establishes self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. In a sense, the therapy creates self-satisfaction to replace the thumb or finger sucking desire.
Once the habit is gone, the child gains many benefits. He or she enjoys an improved appearance, an ability to speak more clearly, and better dental health. In breaking the unwanted habit, the child will also receive a boost of self-confidence.
Call Dr. Honor Franklin at Honor Franklin Myofunctional and Speech Clinic at 972-233-1312. She is an IAOM Certified Orofacial Myofunctional Therapist and has been successfully eliminating deleterious sucking habits since 1977 using positive reinforcement and no hurtful appliances.
It’s true: breaking a habit is a good rule of thumb.
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