From around ages 3 – 6, most children have all 20 baby teeth erupted. Some young children may still be sucking their thumbs to soothe themselves; this usually stops between 2 and 4 years old, or by the time the adult front teeth are ready to break through their gums. After your child’s permanent adult teeth come in, thumb sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of their mouth and teeth alignment. A downloadable ADA Primary Teeth Eruption and Shedding Chart can be found on the upper menu bar under the NEW PATIENT BUTTON > Resources.
- The parent is responsible for brushing their child’s teeth for 2 minutes, 2 times a day. Use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste after the child has learned to spit out.
- Encourage the child to brush, after you.
- Brush your children’s teeth until they develop the coordination to do so themselves, usually around age 8. Then, supervise their brushing to make sure they brush thoroughly about 2 minutes twice a day, after breakfast and the last thing before going to bed at night.
- Regular professional dental care must be maintained. Dental professionals can monitor problems with tooth development, alignment and crowding, tooth decay, congenitally missing teeth, proper brushing and flossing, proper nutrition, habits like thumb-sucking, and tooth and mouth infections.
- New molars should be protected with paint-on coatings called sealants and professional fluoride treatments.
- Encourage healthy eating habits that include a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Serve fruits and vegetables as nutritious snacks and limit sweets to mealtimes. Do not reward your child with candy, suckers, sweet treats, ice cream, or soda.
- Fluoridated water is the recommended beverage. Avoid sports drinks, juice packs, sodas, and energy drinks.
- Make sure all caretakers (grandparents, relatives, and sitters) are all informed about proper nutrition and treats.
- If you suspect a problem with your child’s mouth or teeth, schedule a visit to the dentist as soon as possible. Consider a morning appointment when the child is rested and cooperative. At that time, dental professionals will examine your child’s mouth, teach you how to care for your child’s teeth at home, counsel you on proper nutrition and prevention of future dental problems. This will establish a “dental home” for your child’s future dental care.
- Remember to keep your anxiety and concerns to yourself; emphasize the positive as children can pick up on your emotions or fear. Avoid the use of words such as “hurt”, “pain”, “needle” that promote anxiety. Never use the dental visit as a punishment or a threat. Generally, do not prepare the child for the visit. The dental team will explain the procedures to the child utilizing a “tell, show, do” approach. Except for your questions to the dental team, please remain silent while professionals are giving your child instructions.
- Childproof your house to prevent falls. Most dental injuries in preschool and school-age kids occur from falls.
Thumb Sucking Tips: Praise your kids for not sucking their thumbs; don’t scold them for sucking them. Children often suck their thumbs when they feel insecure or need comfort. Focus on why your child is anxious and comfort your child. Remind your child of their habit by having them trace their hand shape when they think about thumb sucking, or bandaging the thumb, or putting a sock on the hand at night; another technique is to insist on them using the other hand which is often their least favorite. Your pharmacy may also have a bitter medication to coat the thumb. If you notice changes in your child’s baby teeth position, don’t hesitate to consult your dentist; if necessary, your dentist may suggest the use of a mouth appliance for several months, which is designed like a fence to block comfortable sucking on the finger. For older kids, involve them in choosing how to stop. Your dentist can offer encouragement to your kids and explain what might happen to their teeth if they don’t stop sucking their thumbs.