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Oral Habits can be hard to break.  We can help with this!

Digit sucking habits include thumb, finger sucking, pacifier use, lip sucking, and chewing/sucking on inedible objects (clothing, blanket, etc.) all are considered a non-nutritive sucking habit. Many changes take place in the mouth with digit sucking. Unnatural high narrow arch may form from pressure of the digit or digits.

Image by Kyle Nieber

What are the impacts of prolonged thumb sucking?

+ improper alignment of the teeth

+ high narrow palate

+ abnormal swallowing patterns 

+ improper tongue position 

+ speech problems.

+ social-emotional impacts (teasing, taunting) leading to increased thumb/digit sucking and isolation

+ increased risk of picking up undesirable germs.  

Why is the habit so hard to break?

Babies have a natural urge to suck.  Childhood sucking past age five is a habit that has roots in the earliest days of life. Childhood sucking is a pleasurable activity from day one, often associated with early pleasurable innate physiological responses. "When children suck, beta endorphin, a powerful and calming chemical is produced, and attaches to the opiate receptors in the pleasure center of the brain. This strong biochemical reaction from the sucking behavior results in the pleasurable and often addictive-like feelings the thumbsucking child experiences. And, that association, and the pleasurable feelings it conjures up, is what makes an oral habit so hard to “kick”. (IAOM)

When is a good time to eliminate the habit?

Treatment to eliminate the habit can begin prior to eruption of permanent teeth. Early intervention is key! The longer the behavior persists, the more difficult it will be to eliminate the habit.  Children who continue to suck their thumb past the age of five are at greatest risk.  

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