It can be considered quite normal for children to suck their finger upto a certain age. Continued finger sucking beyond 3 years of age may cause serious defects in the developing oral and facial structures including the jawbones
Why do children suck the finger?
Many children develop the habit of sucking the thumb or other fingers. A number of possible causes exist for finger sucking. These include:
Lack of adequate nursing or feeding.
Feeling of insecurity due to inadequate parental care, love and affection.
Sudden change in domestic or work atmosphere which the child cannot cope with.
Stress related to school, friends,etc.
Until what age can the finger sucking be allowed?
Finger sucking may not cause irreversible harm in children less than 3 years of age. However much depends on factors such as duration, intensity and frequency of the sucking habit.
Continuation of the habit beyond 3 years may pose problem for the developing facial and dental structures
How will the dentist control finger sucking?
Many children stop sucking the thumb when the causative factor is identified and eliminated. Timely nursing, feeding, and increasing the time you spend with the child may to some extent decrease his insecurity.
Slightly older children can be reasoned out of the habit by explaining the bad effects of the habit. The dentist may sometimes advice the use of finger bandaging or the use of bitter medicine to make the habit less pleasurable.
When these simple steps fail the dentist may advice a habit breaker, which is placed behind the front teeth, and prevent the child from sucking the thumb.
What are the effects of finger sucking?
Thumb sucking can cause problems if allowed to persist beyond 3 years of age. Some of the effects include the front teeth being pushed too far forward, spacing of the teeth and therefore poor facial appearance. Continued indulgence in the habit may cause defects in the developing jaw and facial bones.
Do habits like biting the nails, pencil, etc cause harm to the teeth?
Habits like biting nails, pencils, etc besides causing wear of the teeth can cause injury to the gums and supporting structures around the teeth.
In addition the pressures they exert on the teeth may force them into abnormal positions which may necessitate orthodontic treatment.
What is tongue thrusting?
Tongue thrusting is a habit wherein the person forces the tongue against the back surface of the front teeth while swallowing. This habit can produce proclination of the front teeth and spaces between them. The dentist may have to train the patient on the correct swallowing method by some exercises and use of habit breaking devices.