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Non-Nutritive Habits – Willow Park, TX

Putting a Stop to Harmful Habits

Thumb sucking, finger sucking, and pacifier use are all normal behaviors for infants and very young children. However, if they continue past a certain age, they can begin to endanger your little one’s oral health. How can you put a stop to these harmful non-nutritive habits? Drs. Stroud and Ball are ready to help. Read below to learn more about non-nutritive habits and the best way to address them.

The Harmful Nature of Non-Nutritive Sucking Habits

Young girl with stuffed animal, engaging in non-nutritive habits in Willow Park

Up until age 4 or so, thumb sucking in Willow Park or Aledo is normal and not a big cause for concern. The same is true of finger sucking. Pacifier use should generally stop before a child reaches their first birthday, but 3 years of age is considered the absolute upper age limit for it.

If these sucking habits continue beyond the normal timeframe, or if they are particularly intense (regardless of how long the habit continues), harm can result. Some possible consequences of unchecked sucking habits include:

  • Improper alignment of the teeth
  • Abnormal growth of the jaw
  • Problems with the gums and roof of the mouth
  • Speech difficulties
  • Noticeable alterations to facial aesthetics

How Our Team Can Help

Child getting high five for stopping thumb sucking in Willow Park

If you are concerned about your child’s non-nutritive sucking habits, visit us for a consultation. We will learn more about the situation, determine whether the habit has already caused some damage to the oral structures, and work with you to come up with a plan to stop the unwanted behavior.

We might prescribe a special appliance that prevents placement of the thumb in the mouth in a comfortable, soothing position. We may also provide you with practical suggestions that will help motivate your child to want to stop the habit. In most cases, it can take about 6 months to a year to completely break unwanted sucking patterns.

If your child’s habit has already started to cause issues with their oral structures, do not worry. Either by in-house treatments or by referring you to a trustworthy local orthodontist, it is usually possible to get a child’s oral development back on track.

At-Home Tips for Addressing Thumb Sucking

Child and parent having a talk about thumb sucking

Every child is different, so it may take you a few tries before you find a method that is effective at helping your child fight their bad habit. Here are a few approaches that have worked for other parents:

  • Talk about the problem. Remember that sucking habits are usually used as a coping mechanism when a child is stressed or sad. Any discussions you have about the problem should be gentle and empathetic. According to your child’s level of understanding, you can educate them about the dangers of thumb sucking.
  • Be observant. Does your child tend to suck their thumb only at specific times? Figuring out what triggers them to engage in their habit can be an important step on the way to breaking it.
  • Use bitter nail polish. Making it unpleasant for your child to suck their thumb or fingers can be a powerful reminder about why they should stop.
  • Use positive reinforcement. Rewarding your child for their progress can do much to motivate them to keep up their efforts to break their bad sucking habit.