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The positive side of thumb-sucking

The Positive Side Of Thumb-sucking

Although Thumb Sucking is a natural reflex found among most primates used to instill a feeling of security and elation, particularly among human toddlers, most parents strive to discourage the practice, for a number of reasons.

Not only is it considered “unsightly,” for anyone over the age of 4, the American Dental Association and Association of Pediatric Dentists have blamed it for screwing up the alignment of both baby teeth and permanent ones, as well as the mouth itself by causing changes in the shape of the palate, leading to an open bite due to pressure by the buccinaro muscles. This is especially true for youngsters who retain the habit beyond their 8th birthdays

Not only can the habit change the basic shape of the palate, it can result in “buck teeth” by forcing the incisors to get pushed out by the constant pressure of the thumb against them, leading to years if expensive orthodonture (not to mention ridicule by other kids). The same can also be said about the use of pacifiers.

Aside from this, thumb sucking, along with nail-biting, has also been blamed for an increased risk of infection from “communicable diseases,” simply because “non-sterile thumbs are covered with bacteria. However, a new study out of New Zealand’s Dunedin School of Medicine led by Dr. Malcolm Sears a researcher at the Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health at McMaster and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, has found that the “filthy” habit may actually benefit kids by helping to reduce their risk of developing allergies.

“Our findings are consistent with the ‘hygiene hypothesis,’ which contends states that early exposure to dirt or germs reduces the risk of developing allergies and other illnesses by educating and strengthening the immune system,” he stated.

In other words, when children are not exposed to enough germs at an early age, their immune systems tend to overreact to new substances negatively later on.

“While we don’t recommend that these habits should be encouraged, there does appear to be a positive side to these habits.”

This is not to say that parents shouldn’t try and break their kids of these habits, but that they should not be (quite) as upset when they put unwashed fingers into their mouths.

To prove their point Sears and his team monitored the oral habits of 1,000 kids from birth to maturity and conducted skin prick tests to identify those who suffered from allergies. What they found was that nearly 49% of the kids who did not suck their thumbs or bite their fingernails ended up allergic to irritants such as pet dander, grass, and dust mites, etc, while only 31% of the kids who consistently put their fingers in their mouths ended up with similar allergies.

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The positive side of thumb-sucking


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