Sucking thumbs or fingers is a natural reflex in babies and young children. Most children grow out of sucking their thumbs or fingers around 2-4 years of age.
If you want to encourage your child to stop thumb-sucking or finger-sucking, it can help to:
- gently remind your child to stop
- find ways to distract your child from thumb-sucking
- praise your child – for example, ‘That’s great. I can hear your words clearly when your thumb isn’t in your mouth’
- talk to your pharmacist about a paint-on solution to make your child’s fingers taste yucky.
Sucking that goes on over many years can affect the growth of a child’s jaws and the way their teeth line up. It might cause permanent dental problems if it keeps going when adult teeth start to come through. If you’re concerned that your child’s thumb-sucking and finger-sucking are causing dental problems, talk to your dentist.
Children are more likely to suck their thumbs or fingers when they’re tired, stressed or hungry.
Teeth-grinding in preschoolers is pretty common and doesn’t usually need treatment.
Some children clench their jaws quite firmly, and others grind their teeth so hard that it makes a noise. Some children grind their teeth during sleep. Often, they don’t wake up when they do it – but other people do!
Most of the time, teeth-grinding doesn’t last and doesn’t cause damage to your child’s teeth. But if teeth-grinding does keep going, you might want to talk to your GP or dentist. It could lead to your child having headaches and tooth or jaw pain, or wearing down their teeth.
Injuries to teeth
Injuries to your preschooler’s face and teeth can happen when they’re running, climbing, riding scooters and bikes and so on. It’s a good idea to see a doctor or dentist if your child damages their teeth or face.
If your child knocks out a baby tooth, don’t try to put it back in, because this can cause problems later on when the adult tooth starts to come through.
Losing a baby tooth before it’s ready to come out usually isn’t a serious dental problem, but it’s important that you take your child to the dentist immediately for a check-up. Take the knocked-out tooth too.
Seeing the dentist and knowing that an adult tooth will eventually fill the space – and that any pain or tenderness will soon go – can help reassure you and your child.