Sucking your finger can hurt your child’s teeth

Does your son suck your finger? Do not worry: the movement of suction is a natural reflection in children, which begins already in the womb. But it is important that you inform yourself why it may be harmful in the long run, at what age you should stop doing it and what the consequences are if the habit continues beyond normal time, especially for the alignment of your teeth and the health of the mouth in general.

Babies tend to suck the thumb and sometimes the other fingers, as well as the pacifier, pacifier or any other object within reach. The action of sucking makes babies feel safe and satisfied, and helps them learn what the new world around them is like.

A little older children are given a sense of security in difficult times or stress (the first day of school, when they are surrounded by strangers, separated from their parents or in an unfamiliar environment). As licking your fingers relaxes them, it also helps them to sleep better, and that’s why they usually take them to their mouths at bedtime or when they’re tired.

But according to the American Dental Association and The Journal of the American Dental Association, if the habit of finger licking is prolonged too long, it can affect the roof of the mouth (the palate) and cause problems in the alignment of the permanent teeth. The intensity of the suction movement is a factor that must be considered. If the child sucks gently, as in most cases, there may be no problems or deformations in the teeth. But if you do it vigorously, problems can occur, even in baby teeth. Observe your son.

How to break the habit

It is true that the pacifier affects the teeth in exactly the same way as the fingers. But it is easier to break the habit of the pacifier than to suck your fingers, since you can remove it when you want. If you give your child the pacifier as a substitute for fingers, try to be always clean, for reasons of hygiene, and also so that it does not have a pleasant taste, that encourages him to suck it more. For example, never smear sugar or honey before giving it to them.

Normally the same children spontaneously stop sucking their fingers between the ages of two to four years, or when permanent teeth begin to appear. The habit breaks up little by little, while the child becomes more interested in exploring what he has around him. If he still sucks his thumb when he reaches school age, the pressure of the other students helps him break the habit. But if your child continues to suck your finger after four years, you should take steps to stop it, considering that pressing too much or turning the issue into a constant battle, can be counterproductive.

Some recommendations you can follow

Children often suck their fingers when they feel anxious or insecure. Find out the cause of the problem, and try to resolve the situation so that the child feels calm and relaxed.

Instead of quarreling with the child because he sucks his fingers, he changes the technique: praise him when he does not suck them.

If the child does not suck his fingers when he is going through a difficult or stressful situation, offer him a reward.

Explain what might happen to your teeth if you continue to suck your fingers.

If the child is older, involve him in the problem, and let him decide the best method to break the habit.

If these methods fail, give your child a finger or put a sock on his hand at night, before he goes to bed. This reminds him that he should not lick his fingers. But if the habit still persists, ask the dentist for help. He or she may prescribe a bitter-tasting medication, which is put on the child’s finger so that it is not put in his mouth, or a device in his mouth to prevent him from doing so. And try to act before it’s too late, and then it’s harder to avoid the problems in your teeth. At stake are not only your child’s dental health, but your chances of showing a beautiful and pleasant smile when you are an adult.