Parrish Village News February 2016
Hello Parrish families! The new year is in full swing and I hope 2016 is a great year for Parrish!
Hello, My name is Dr. Patty Schnur, and I am a general dentist practicing in Parrish. I limit my practice to children 2-18 years of age. Recently I’ve had several parents ask me about how oral habits such as thumb sucking and pacifier use can affect oral health in children, so that is this month’s topic.
As a mom, I have three children and each of them sucked their thumb. Thumbsucking is a
natural comfort mechanism in babies and as they grow and discover more about their world, babies will often find their thumbs, fingers, and toes interesting. Babies will also self-soothe or fall asleep by sucking their thumbs. For babies it is a natural reflex.
However, as children grow and permanent teeth erupt, the natural, ideal growth and
development of the palate and dental arches, as well as the jaw can be negatively affected by thumbsucking and pacifier use. Ideally during sleep the tongue lies against the roof of the mouth helping to create an appropriately wide shape for the dental arches. When a child has an object, like a pacifier or thumb, interrupting that sleep pattern, the arches and roof of the mouth will become misshapen. Serious orthodontic problems arise that can affect the smile, the bite, and the jaw joints. The most common effect is flared front teeth and an open bite (the top and bottom teeth don’t touch.)
Breaking a sucking habit can be very difficult without a child’s own motivation. Praising a child for not sucking his thumb can work, but is often not enough. A dentist can help suggest other strategies, such as bitter tasting nail polishes or even orthodontic appliances. Two of my children stopped with the help of a product called Mavala Stop, but my youngest child took much longer. He wore mittens to bed, we used bitter medication, but nothing worked. It wasn’t until he became self motived after seeing pictures of children with severely misaligned smiles that he stopped. He decided he wanted a handsome smile instead.
I also want to mention that some children suck their thumbs as a way to prop open their mouths in order to breathe better at night. An airway that is restricted due to enlarged tonsils can lead children to mouth breathe during sleep, sometimes using their thumbs to help. Mouth breathing, snoring, and sleep problems are a topic on its own, but one I find very important to healthy growth and development.
I hope this information is useful. If you have a question you would like me to answer in this column you can send it to me at ParrishChildrensDentistry@yahoo.com or call my office at 776-5135.