Thumb sucking

Thumb sucking is one of the issue i often hear from the parents in the pediatric department. Here we see about the reason behind thumb sucking, its consequences on the prolonged practice, and how to manage it.

Why a child do thumb sucking?

Thumb sucking has a strong correlation with the child psychology. Let us see in detail.

Fear is the first emotion elicit by an individual ever after introduced to the world. It is a kind of inherent one. The rest all emotions are acquired slowly when the child grows. Sucking thumb psychologically provide a secured feel to the child as he/she is close to the mother. Thumb sucking is the positive reinforcement in child’s behavior upto the age of 3. By this time the child should have acquired trust and courage to face the outer environment/ society by his/her own and eventually the thumb sucking habit should wear off.

What are the reason for prolonged use of thumb sucking habit and when it is considered abnormal?

Any imbalance in the above process will lead the child to prolong the habit of thumb sucking whereby then it become the negative reinforcement. On or after the age of 4, thumb sucking habit is considered as abnormal and should seek for attention.

The unsecured feel that the child developed during their course of development causes to prolong the habit. The most probable reasons could be due to 

  • Child having less attention from their parents
  • Over protective child where he/she fails to learn self defense
  • Presence of sibling where he/she starts to compare the parents attention between each and become submissive
  • Child left with care taker in the first three years of life
  • Abused child
  • Child grown up in the closed environment with minimal exposure to the outer world
  • Dominant parents where the child gets minimal or nil chance to express his/her thoughts or requirements

What are all the consequences of thumb sucking habit ?

  • Deprived mental health of the child.
  • The child may become an attention seeker even for the basic things or will prefer to be all alone everytime or may become exceptionally imaginative
  • Dental problem includes, proclination of front teeth, narrowing of upper arch form and development of malocclusion

How to manage thumb sucking habit?

Management takes place by two intervention

Psychological intervention, where parents play a major role.

  • Sit and talk to your child as long as you can and try to grab out the hidden emotion that he/she is going through ( can take the medical counsellors support if you cannot able to find out )
  • Make your child to understand that how much he/she is important in your life, rather than simply advising to break the habit
  • Understand the child’s need and go accordingly
  • Spend adequate time with your children and treat the siblings equally and do not compare one with the other
  •  Provide them opportunities to decide by their own with good guidance.

Dental intervention,

  • Use of habit breaking appliance, which is to be wear for 7-8 months along with the muscle strengthening exercises.
  • To undergo orthodontic treatment to correct malocclusion.

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