The professional view
Sacha Walters-Gregory, Staff Reporter
Tracey McNair, a board certified Orofacial Myologist with the International Association of Orofacial Myology says it's highly possible to help stop your child from thumb/finger/tongue sucking.
"Bottom line, the child has to be ready. They have to have an ounce of willingness," McNair said. Her method is to guide the child through a process to first help them to stop sucking and then help correct some side effects of their sucking.
"I'm sure if you're a parent you've always tried to get your child to do something, but you become very emotionally involved and don't always necessarily, do it as you should, you can lose your temper. My therapy takes the pressure off the parent," she explained.
McNair works with children four years and older as they have sufficient maturity to participate in the process.
"However, I have had extraordinary results with a few well behaved three-year-olds," she explained.
McNair explained that some children will stop sucking naturally and boys are more likely to stop sucking naturally than girls.
McNair notes that there are different intensities to the sucking action. Some having a strong sucking action, others just resting the finger in their mouth. Some children suck while holding an item like a teddy bear, blanket, or twirling their hair. These activities are usually discouraged.
"A lot of them once they get that item in their hands it indicates it's time to start sucking," she said.
However, thumb, finger and tongue sucking has its advantages for babies.
"As a baby it's very soothing, it can make for a contented baby, they can sleep well," she said. However, at four years old and upwards, it is a bad habit with possible long-term effects.
"The sucking can cause a lot of other problems; it is detrimental to how they breathe, grow, develop, how their tongue functions during speech, how their tongue functions during a swallow and it can really be quite uncosmetic because some children come in literally with their mouth open and their tongue hanging out through this gaping space between their top and bottom teeth," she notes.
McNair, who is also a dental hygienist, says in her first session she has an age-dependent conversation with the child, "about germs, bad teeth, how we speak, how we look, in a way to entice them to stop sucking," she explained.
"Once the child has made a conscious decision to stop, they sign a little contract with me. I have my set of rules and the deal is they must stick to those rules."
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