MY THUMB-SUCKING TODDLER VISITS THE DENTIST

(Click HERE to read a previous post on how we prepare to visit the dentist.)

Both E and V are thumb-suckers, but E definitely does it more than V. It’s something we are extremely mindful of as they do this for three reasons: tired, bored, and comfort.

E has been to the dentist before, twice, for a chipped tooth that occurred when we moved from a carpeted home to wood floors. The trolly moves a lot faster when there’s a lack of friction and she banged her poor little mouth and chipped a tooth. Both visits to the dentist went really well for her; we always ensure that they are respected and their needs met.

During this visit, after E was finished and V was waiting for the dentist to arrive, I said, “I’m glad there seems to be no concern about their thumb-sucking as people frequently express concern.”

The dental hygienist’s response is, “Pacifiers are better because thumbs are with them and can’t be removed as pacifiers can.” *Pause* Nope. Nope. Nope. We don’t just remove items of comfort. Never.

I understand where their concern is, I do. The dentist explained that it may require braces later. Okay. So here’s the thing. I know it’s not purely cosmetic, there are actual concerns, totally get it. But it can be fixed if necessary. I’d also like to avoid needing it to be fixed due to comfort. I never had braces, but my sister had orthopedic work and it was painful at times for her. I don’t want to put my children through that if it can be avoided.

That being said, I would never just remove an item of comfort.

So what will we do? Rewire the brain. Right now when sleep or comfort is needed the default is to suck their thumbs. To rewire that, we are going to redirect–in a respectful, loving way.

When due to boredom, redirect to materials and activities that require two hands. In the dentist’s office, I asked if she’d like a book. The response was ‘yes’ and both hands held it–it can be that easy, yet not alway is.

When uncomfortable, we are redirecting to the rocker to cuddle and the mediation tracers. The mediation tracers aren’t uncommon here, we use them all the time for strong emotions, but I haven’t offered them specifically for comfort, as we usually just rock and cuddle.

Another option is holding items of comfort, such as their felt stars. Again, keeping the hands occupied. We are huge fans of all that The Prepared Environment. Sarah creates as it aids in promoting emotional regulation. We reserve the heart for moments of strong upset–when the meditation tracers aren’t enough–but the stars, with their five points, are great for general holding/tracing and exploration.

I wanted to share this as it’s so important to respect the child AND honour their needs WHILE ensuring care is taken for their future.

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