Ella had her very first dentist appointment and not surprisingly, the first thing they noticed was that she is a thumb sucker.
“What have you tried to do to stop her thumb sucking?” they asked (or maybe a better word would be drilled.) I felt mildly defensive, especially since they’d just seen Carson and were so perplexed that a four-year-old was so afraid of the dentist. How odd, indeed!
“Well, I, uh, well…I haven’t really tried anything. I mean, I know she needs to stop and that it’s affecting her teeth, but she’s not even three. I don’t think she really understands,” I managed to say.
Separately the hygienist and the dentist told me some ways I could encourage Ella to give up the thumb, so lucky for me I got to hear their suggestions twice. Maybe they thought if they both told me, I’d be twice as likely to follow through?
Thumb guards, tape, some paint-on stuff for her thumb that tastes gross, and putting Tabasco Sauce on her thumb were all suggested. “Really??,” I wanted to say. “REALLY? You think it’s okay to put TABASCO SAUCE on a not even three-year-old’s thumb??”
It doesn’t sound like it, but I do really like this dentist and his staff. They are kind and patient, the exam area is bright and kid friendly. I just had a hard to time heeding their suggestions once they mentioned Tabasco, because I just think that’s so mean. Before I had kids, I internally gasped at children who sucked their thumbs and used pacifiers. “Terrible parenting,” I’d grumble to myself, conveniently forgetting that I sucked my thumb until I was eight and have great parents. I probably wouldn’t have bristled at the suggestion of Tabasco to extinguish the evil known as thumb sucking before it was suggested for my sweet, darling girl.
I imagine Ella’s future will include many hours spent in the orthodontist’s chair, tears will be shed over the pain of braces. Tate and I have quietly discussed how expensive her teeth will mostly likely be. As a former Speech-Language Pathologist, I know that sometimes thumb sucking can be detrimental to speech sound development. WE KNOW! Her teeth are messed up! It’s because she sucks her thumb! We know she needs to stop!
So far, Ella’s speech is perfectly fine. She has a few errors, but they are age-appropriate. Also? She’s NOT EVEN THREE. It’s hard for me to get myself too worked up about changing her thumb sucking behavior when I know that she’ll eventually give it up without me slathering her thumb in Tabasco and burning her mouth.
We return to the dentist in six months and he will be expecting that we’ve actually done something about Ella’s thumb sucking. No, we won’t be going the Tabasco route (we’ll wait until she’s at least 3 1/2 for that. Ha!). Tate suggested a lobotomy for Ella since they have such a proven track record, or just removing her thumb all together. (Ha, ha, very funny.)
I’m not so sure that we’ll be doing anything drastic to encourage her to stop, aside from talking about how “big, three-year-old girls don’t suck their thumbs!”