"Help! Our dentist just said our 4 1/2 year old must stop sucking her thumb immediately. It has already affected her teeth. We've tried painting her nails, logic, encouragement, rewards, etc. We've decreased the sucking, but she doesn't seem ready or able to stop. We'd like advice."

"I don't know if this is the same thing or not, but my daughter (4 years) had a terrible habit of biting the inside of her bottom lip. She had a huge blister that lasted almost 2 years! If I talked to her about it at all it only got worse because she felt more anxiety. Then she started to get a second blister and she began having nightmares. I felt bewildered as to what was causing this, but I sensed that some extra security would help. We let her sleep with us at night. From the first night her nightmares stopped and in two months her blisters were gone! We congratulated her highly, told her how proud we were that she had conquered her difficulty and told her it was now okay that she return to her own bed. She did this quite bravely and hasn't had any problem since for 8 months now. Again, I don't know if this applies to your daughters' situation but you might ask why she's sucking her thumb. Is it just a habit, or is there something behind it? I think sucking, chewing and eating are often comforting things. Think about it."

"Get a second opinion. Unless thumb sucking is constant (all day long), it generally does not greatly affect the teeth. Try another dentist whose current on children's teeth formation. Transfer her to a pacifier - it's easier to get rid of later than a thumb and if used a lot is less damaging than a thumb."

"One thing to look for is her behavior. Does she seem to want to suck her thumb when she needs comfort? If so, then you might want to spend time with her."

"When does she suck her thumb most? Perhaps trying to modify the activity. Instead of sucking the thumb maybe chewing gum or singing songs will help. Also, if she associates sucking her thumb while holding a blanket or other `lovey,' try to phase out that item. Conversely, if she doesn't have any kind of security objects, perhaps she can choose one that she'd like to hold instead of sucking her thumb. I also think

you should speak to another dentist."

"My nephew also had a thumb sucking problem. The parents were at their wits end and finally asked the doctor who started testing him. They found out he was allergic to milk and milk products. Maybe your daughter has something else wrong other than a need for a `security' thumb."

"We had our dentist tell our son directly that he needed to stop (rather than our telling). He stopped just like that! Our dentist also told our daughter and she did not stop! So we give our 4 1/2 year old daughter choices: Pacifier; Suck another finger; Or stroke her thumb with her other hand."

"Put a little Picante sauce on her thumb when she is asleep. When she puts her thumb in her mouth it will taste so bad that she won't want to suck it again."

"What has gone on for 4 1/2 years does not stop over night. Consistency will pay off. Go for 2 days at a time of rewarding her. I rewarded my daughter for not sucking her thumb. I used M&M's when she was able to go for a period of time without sucking her thumb. When she completely was able to quit, I got her a bike at a garage sale (something she wanted and worked towards). Keep encouraging her. Understand it will not stop overnight."

"My feeling is that if she isn't ready maybe she needs that security. I sucked my thumb until I was 6, but I never had teeth problems so I can't relate to that. I believe the security is more important. If you can decrease the sucking that at least is a help. My inclination is to decrease it as much as you can and let it go. Next fall she'll be in kindergarten and will deal with her own shame concerning it."

"I'd get another dentists' opinion first. If she's decreased the sucking a little, you're on your way. Most `experts' don't encourage trying to make them stop, but encourage you to let them stop on their own. Right now, she still needs her `lovie.'"

"Keep up the good work, and be patient. It's not easy to quit a bad habit over night. It sounds like you've already seen some improvement."

"Can you substitute with a `NUK' exersizer? It comes recommended by orthodontists."

"I'd first look at when your daughter is sucking her thumb which may help you know why she's doing it. Is it before bedtime, in a strange place or new situation, etc.? Then I'd see if there's something which you could find to substitute for the thumb sucking which might give her the same comfort level."

"Don't make the sucking an issue when you see the child doing it - put a toy in her hand or give her some other distraction. Have you tried putting a bandage on the thumb at night and tell your child it's to keep it from getting wet and wrinkled so he/she won't think they're doing something bad. Make a game out of it, not an issue."

"If you yourself have a bad habit, sit down and discuss stopping your habit with her. Then suggest that she quit thumb sucking at the same time you quit your bad habit. Make it a project you can both work on together."

"Maybe your daughter really isn't ready or able to stop, and needs the comfort of sucking to get through such difficult adjustments as falling to sleep or waking up, or getting along at nursery school and day-care. Maybe you could observe at which time of day or in what situations she sucks her thumb, to see if there is a pattern. If there is, maybe you could deal with the things that lead her to suck her thumb. But, it's probably not tragic if she needs to suck and continues. She doesn't even have permanent teeth yet! I sucked my thumb until I was 8 1/2, after years of flower stickers on my calendar to reward resisting the temptation, and threats of needing braces. I finally stopped by sleeping with my hand under my pillow. By the way, although I looked like Goofy Gopher in third grade, I never had braces and now have a near perfect bite."

"She knows how you feel, so totally drop the issue. Her self-esteem cannot be repaired as easily as her teeth can be straightened. By removing the pressure, she may be able to take steps on her own to lessen her dependence on it, but this ultimately is her issue, not yours."

"Stop worrying. My daughter sucked her thumb until she was past six years old. She stopped when she was ready. Your dentist is making you worry for nothing. I had talked to my dentist all the time about the problem. He said not to worry. Until their permanent teeth come in, there is no damage being done, and even after they come in, most children do not have teeth problems because of thumb sucking. It is usually caused by other things. My daughter is now almost 9 years old and has no problem with her teeth. Also, my nephew did the same thing and her dentist (who's not the same as mine) told my sister the same thing. His teeth are also OK."

"I'm a dental hygienist who works for an orthodontist. His opinion is that no permanent damage is caused by thumb-sucking at this early age. Normally children don't get their permanent teeth until about age six. That is when you need to be concerned about a thumb sucking habit. The effect you see now (called an anterior open bite) will normally correct itself relatively quickly following cessation of the thumb sucking. I wouldn't start worrying about it until your daughter starts losing her baby teeth. Hopefully, by then she will have stopped on her own."

"My parents had a similar problem with me. After months of telling me that sucking my thumb was bad for my teeth (and getting nowhere), my parents tried the tactic of cooperation. For example, if you do something for us that we really want, we'll do the same for you. Our deal was that if I stopped sucking my thumb, they'd buy me anything I wanted. I chose a canopy bed. Hopefully this tactic won't backfire on you....at your daughters' age, she probably won't ask for something you can't afford."

"From the sound of things, your daughter has received a lot of attention by sucking her thumb. Try looking for other times to give her special attention."

"Try buying her a nice ring, with the condition that she needs to stop the sucking to keep it. Have it fitted for her thumb. Even though it will look kind of funny, it will serve as a reminder to her long after she stops her thumb sucking she will be able to wear her ring proudly as it will fit her other fingers as she grows?

"Praise her when she's not sucking her thumb. Set up a sticker chart and hope she grows out of it. Encourage a teddy bear or toy to replace the security she gets from thumb sucking."

"I had two younger sisters that sucked their thumbs. You can purchase this hot liquid (it's hot when she sticks her thumb in her mouth) at any drug store (ask pharmacist for the name of it). Or you can use tabasco sauce - put a little on her thumb and she'll associate the hot sensation with sucking her thumb."

"This will be difficult since it's a habit - a portable habit and your daughter really has all the control. Other possibilities would be to: A large band aid on the favored thumb; Offering her a glass of water/juice when you see her sucking; Or make a chart with stickers that she can see for each morning, noon and night that she doesn't suck her thumb. Provide a daily reward."

"Consider checking with another dentist - a 2nd opinion might indicate that it is not absolutely imperative that she stop now. Psychologically, she might be more upset to be forced to stop, and when she starts school, peer pressure to stop might just do it. Down the road, if she needs braces, try to cut yourself some slack and not think, `If only we made her stop.' I had braces for 3 1/2 years and I never sucked my thumb!"

"I personally was a thumb sucker. My parents helped me stop by coating my thumbs with that awful tasting nail biting solution and at night I had my hands coated with petroleum jelly and those old fashioned white gloves. Sounds a little drastic, but it worked and I got soft hands out of the deal!"

"Get another dentists' opinion. My oldest has braces and I asked the orthodontist if her thumb sucking (she sucked her thumb up to age 7) caused the braces. He said it was mainly genetic, both her father and I have an overbite and neither us sucked on thumbs as babies. It may have made it worse, but she would have needed braces anyway. So it doesn't seem worth the despair of putting you and your child through such a hard time to get her to quit."

"Any child still sucking her thumb at 4 1/2 still needs to have the comfort it offers her. Are you offering her other ways to comfort herself? Do you put things in your mouth, like fingernails, pencils, cigarettes, etc.? I try to make it a rule to avoid putting fingers in my mouth (I used to bite my nails) and I encourage my children to do likewise. I try to find healthy, healing ways to comfort myself and then pass those to my children. Some children, thumb suckers or not, will need orthodontia."

"Orthodontic repair is both easier and cheaper than psyche repair. With loving guidance and acceptance she will stop when she is able."

"As a mother of 3 children; the oldest a `retired' thumb sucker, a six year old who sucks his thumb at bed time and a baby 9 months who is not a thumb sucker so far, I recommend the parents seek a second opinion. With my first child I too was concerned she would have orthodontic problems due to thumb sucking. I asked the opinions of several dentists who often work in a hospital where I am employed. They all told me as long as the child stops before the arrival of the permanent teeth, no permanent damage would be caused. I also take my children to a periodontist who feels the same way. My 9 year old stopped thumb sucking at about 6 1/2 and has beautiful straight teeth in no need of orthodontic work and the dentist anticipates no problems in the future with my six year old. I have done much reading and research on the subject of thumb sucking and found as far as orthodontic problems it is not thumb sucking but tongue thrusting which causes the most damage. Tongue thrusting is an action the bottle fed baby uses to stop the flow of milk from the artificial nipple. This does not occur in the breast fed baby who's tongue is positioned under the nipple of the mother and over the lower gums or teeth while the baby is suckling. If the breast fed baby wants to stop the quick flow of milk it simply stops the suckling action. In the bottle fed baby who sucks not suckles to get its milk, the only means of stopping the out flow of milk from the artificial nipple is to use its tongue to thrust up and forward against the nipple. During this action the baby is also pushing up against its upper palate. As you may have guessed my children are exclusively breast fed. I am a working mother who has and currently pumps my milk at work for the baby to have while I am away. Also I only allow the use of orthodontic nipples when I am away. My children have grown into wonderful human beings who, partially as an effect of thumb sucking, are individuals secure in themselves and self reliant. It will cost a child more emotionally than physically to interfere with her thumb sucking, making her feel ashamed about something that is as much her as her eye color or disposition."

"I work as a dental hygienist and it is the practice in our office to not make a big deal about a thumb or other oral habit. Children receive tremendous emotional satisfaction from sucking. Forcing them to stop is too stressful. An open bite or over jet of the anterior teeth will quickly move back into a normal position when the habit stops because of the pressure of the lips. Most often, orthodontics or braces are needed because the child is predisposed by heredity (the parents teeth are crooked), not because of thumb sucking. Relax. Think of it like potty training, when the child is ready she will stop naturally."

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