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Thumb sucking

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Updated: 4/18/2007 7:11 am
Some children learn to comfort themselves by sucking their thumb, while others prefer a pacifier or a non-oral method. Thumb and finger sucking is a natural reflex, and can help develop the jaws and muscles around the mouth. Sonograms have shown some children even do it in the womb. You needn't become concerned about thumb sucking until your child begins to lose baby teeth and permanent teeth start to come in. At this point, the habit can cause misalignment of the teeth. The most common effect is prominent front teeth, called buck teeth. The roof of the mouth, called the palate, can also be mal-formed. A pediatric dentist can suggest ways to curb thumb sucking. Methods include a bitter substance applied on the thumb and an oral device, called a reminder bar, to prevent the action. The reminder bar is somewhat like a retainer, individually fitted and easily removable during meals. The habit can be difficult to wean your child from, as this has been a self-comforting method used for a lifetime. Remember, ridiculing your child for thumb sucking won't end the habit, but it may damage your child's self esteem.

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