Thumb sucking is a tough habit to break, even when your child is on board. For parents, it can be difficult to know when to intervene and when to let your child work out a problem on his or her own. At Ragan Orthodontics in Dallas, TX, we can help you decide when you should take steps to help your child stop thumb sucking. For parents who are ready, we offer a pain-free appliance called a thumb guard.
What Is a Thumb Guard?
For children who don’t stop sucking their thumbs after age three or four, a thumb guard is an appliance that will help them let go of the desire to do so. It is a flexible plastic shield that fits over the thumb and attaches to the wrist with a locking system that keeps it from being removed or lost. There are several brands available, and we recommend the TGuard.
This appliance has ventilation slots along the sides that keep it hygienic and discourage thumb sucking. Rather than preventing your child from putting the thumb inside his or her mouth, the ventilation slots allow air in. This inhibits the comforting suction that children seek. Without this rewarding sensation, they lose the desire to continue the habit. After a few weeks of using this appliance, your child will stop thumb sucking for good.
10 Things to Know
1. Thumb Sucking Is Totally Normal for Babies
As a parent, you don’t need to worry about the fact that your child is prone to thumb sucking. It is a normal desire that comes from the instinctive need for nourishment and comfort. Babies suck when they are feeding, and they grow to associate this action with warmth and security. As a result, many babies begin sucking their thumbs as a means of self-soothing.
Many children outgrow thumb sucking on their own. Sometimes, they lose the inclination as they get older. Other times, the reactions of adults and other children give them a sense that the behavior is no longer appropriate. Often, children want to stop thumb sucking but find it difficult to break the habit. The thumb guard can support their efforts and help them achieve this important goal.
2. After Age 4, Thumb Sucking Can Cause Orthodontic Problems
Growing children have very malleable mouths. Their palates respond to the constant presence of a thumb by changing. For very young children, this is not a problem because the issues can usually correct themselves. However, after age 3 or 4, thumb sucking can cause damage that does not go away on its own. Specifically, the teeth can push outward, causing misalignment. The palate can expand, preventing the front teeth from meeting. Bite issues, speech impediments, and difficulty chewing can result. Protruding teeth can even cause injuries to the mouth.
The earlier a child can stop thumb sucking, the better the chance of these problems self-correcting. For children who wait too long to stop, orthodontic treatments are usually necessary. The thumb guard is a good way to prevent the need for those measures because it is less expensive, faster, and more comfortable.
3. Thumb Sucking Can Delay Social Development
Children who suck their thumbs spend less time interacting with others. This is particularly true if your child sucks his or her thumb during the day. The habit inhibits talking, which makes the child less inclined to communicate and play with peers. It can also be a distraction from social activities. Breaking this habit can help your child make connections with others and engage with the world.
4. Thumb Sucking Can Cause Illnesses
Thumbs pick up germs and bacteria. When children put their thumbs in their mouths, they are exposed to elements that can cause them to become sick. Helping your child break this habit encourages good hygiene and prevents illness, which can take away from school time and fun activities.
5. Children Who Suck Their Thumbs Are Targets for Bullies
You may have seen children being picked on for sucking their thumbs. It might even be something you remember from your childhood. Frequent teasing can cause stress and social trauma. Your child deserves to spend time doing schoolwork and making friends, not dealing with bullies.
6. The TGuard Works in a Matter of Weeks
The good thing about habits is that they can be broken. Psychologists say it takes about two weeks to form a habit. Similarly, by abstaining from the habitual activity for some time, a person can let go and move on. The TGuard is usually effective in about a month. Studies show that it cures thumb sucking in 95% of children who use it. This investment of time can save your child many months of orthodontic treatments.
7. The TGuard Is a Safe, Hygienic Option
The ventilation system that is built into the TGuard keeps it dry and prevents the build-up of bacteria. It is made of FDA-approved medical grade plastic that is easy to clean. This material, which is made in the U.S., is BPA-free and clear of phthalates. It is a good alternative to the bad-tasting chemicals that are sometimes used on children’s nails to discourage thumb sucking.
8. Your Child Will Be Able to Continue Normal Activities With the TGuard
The TGuard is made of flexible material that is designed to accommodate writing, drawing, and playing. Your child will be able to wear it while participating in school and doing activities at home.
9. Sometimes, the Thumb Guard Doesn’t Need to Be Worn in the Day
Some children tend to suck their thumbs during the day, while others mainly exhibit the behavior at night. Other children do both. Children who suck their thumbs at night might have a harder time breaking the habit because it happens while they are asleep and cannot control their actions. However, the good news is that children who only suck their thumbs at night don’t always need to wear the TGuard to school.
Some children find it easier to stop thumb sucking during the day before they can control this behavior during sleep. In that case, parents can start by having them wear the TGuard all the time and later switch to night-use only.
10. Finger Guards Are Available If Needed
If your child sucks his or her fingers, similar appliances are available to help. They have all the benefits of the thumb guard and work in the same way.
Does My Child Need a Thumb Guard?
Children can benefit from the TGuard if they are over age three or four and can’t stop thumb sucking on their own. This appliance is designed to support good hygiene and allows your child to continue all of his or her normal activities. When your child stops sucking his or her thumb, it’s a good reason to celebrate. You can stop worrying about the orthodontic and social consequences of this habit, and your child will have the satisfaction of accomplishing a goal.
There are certain signs that indicate that the TGuard is definitely a good option. If your child shows changes in his or her teeth, you should schedule an orthodontic evaluation with us. If you see your child being teased by peers or getting distracted by thumb sucking, the TGuard can help resolve the situation in a matter of weeks. Finally, if your child hasn’t been able to break this habit despite some previous attempts, it could be time to get the extra support.
How Can I Help My Child Use a Thumb Guard?
The TGuard fastens securely around your child’s hand, so he or she will not be able to take it off. However, the process is more rewarding if you take some steps to involve your child. For many children, working to break a thumb-sucking habit is one of the first ways they learn about having self-control and maintaining good health. There are many ways to make this process fun and engaging. Approaching it in a positive way will create positive associations that can help your child set and reach other goals in the future.
Tell Your Child Why the TGuard Is Important for Healthy Teeth
Most children can understand the importance of breaking this habit, whether or not they can do it without help. Having a conversation with your child will make him or her feel included and respected. When you come into our practice, we can all sit down together to talk about why the TGuard is important. Afterwards, there are some things you can do at home to help your child wear the appliance with a positive attitude.
Make Changing the Bands Fun
The TGuard’s colored wrist bands are designed to give your child a say in the process. They come in different colors so that each day, he or she can choose which one to wear.
Have a Reward System
You can keep a special calendar with stickers to indicate the days on which your child does not try to suck his or her thumb. Choosing a sticker and putting it on the calendar at daily milestones will provide positive feelings at consistent intervals throughout the process. Together, you and your child can come up with some reward to celebrate the end of thumb sucking. You can also give smaller rewards at the end of each successful week.
Schedule a Consultation
If you want to learn more about the TGuard, bring your child in for a consultation. We can show you our practice and give you more information about this helpful solution. During our meeting, we can evaluate your child’s teeth and look to see if any changes are occurring in the alignment or the bite.
The consultation is a great time to ask any questions you might have and to include your child in the conversation. We can help him or her feel comfortable and in control with this appliance. Most importantly, we can explain all the benefits of the TGuard and create a positive environment that will encourage great results.
We Can Stop Thumb Sucking Together
When the time for thumb sucking has passed, the TGuard can help your child let the habit go. Habits are difficult to break, but doing the right thing for orthodontic health and social development is extremely rewarding. The TGuard can make the process a lot easier. It can help your child attain the satisfaction of meeting a goal and understanding good dental health.
When approached in the right way, this process is an opportunity to teach your child about altering behavior when necessary and working to gain rewards. Contact Ragan Orthodontics in Dallas, TX for more information on the TGuard. We look forward to helping your child achieve healthy teeth for life.