Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Suck it and see

As one of the many, many things on my 'to do' list in preparation for our move, I decided a few weeks ago to take Littleboy 1 for his first ever trip to the dentist.

As he's nearly four, I thought it was about time - and, anyway, I'm sure we'll have to pay through the nose (or should that be through the teeth?) for dental checkups in the States, so I thought I'd take advantage of the NHS while we are still here.

Now what is it about dentistry that instills fear into small children even before they are old enough to know what it is? Littleboy 1 took one look at the chair and started quivering. Luckily, the dentist was used to this and produced some toys and stickers, so eventually he agreed to climb on.

I wasn't too worried, as his teeth have always been pretty straight, well-spaced and pearly, and he doesn't even like chocolate or biscuits (this is not, I hasten to add, down to my parenting skills - he's just ultra-fussy and only really likes houmous). But, he sucks his thumb and probably drinks more fruit juice than the Food Police would allow. So I was slightly nervous as she peered into his little mouth.

But, phew. The dentist was so impressed by his teeth that she called over her assistant to take a look at how perfect they were...I glowed momentarily with parental pride.

Then she pointed to Littleboy 2. "Shall I take a quick look at him as well?". I hadn't booked him an appointment because I was sure he wouldn't sit still, and at the age of two, I wasn't sure it was necessary. But well, in for a penny, in for a pound, so we plonked him on the chair.

Hmmm. Not such good news. "You have GOT to stop him sucking that thumb," she says.

"I know. But they both suck their thumbs," I pointed out. "And I sucked mine till I was ten. It runs in the family."

"Yes, but it's the WAY he sucks it," she told me. "He's pulling the teeth right out. If you're not careful he will deform the whole jaw."

Yikes. Deform the jaw? That sounds scary. I was listening now. "So how can I stop him? I can't just tell him not to do it - he's a determined two year old."

"You can try painting that anti-nailbiting stuff on his thumb fingernail. So he doesn't like the bitter taste?" she suggested. We scuttled out, promising to try it.

Readers, I haven't yet dared. And this is why. Thumbsucking is so much a part of Littleboy 2's character that I really do fear the consequences of making him dislike it. He has sucked his thumb since he was a few months old, discarding the dummy I had tried to calm him with as a small, colicky baby. The thumb goes in every time he's the least bit tired or upset, every time he sees his cot, his teddy or is just feeling a bit soppy. It's his comfort blanket, his favourite toy, it's an essential component of Littleboy 2-ness.

I know that I have to make him stop, for the good of his teeth. But I don't want to subject him to horrible nailbiting stuff, make him hate me, or worse, cause a major upset in his life just before uprooting him from his home to move abroad. Am I just being pathetic?


Laura - Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy? said...

We were lucky in that we had a dummy and a dummy fairy. Not so easy with a thumb though.

I know how you feel, it's emotional stuff, moreso for you than him.

I would be more inclined to wait till after the move, for your sanity and his!

Wife in Hong Kong said...

Two is very early to have to stop sucking a thumb. I was a thumb sucker until I went to secondary school and I had to have serious orthodontic work but my eldest who is the only one of my four who didn't suck his thumb is also about to have orthodontic work so not sucking your thumb gives no guarantee of straight teeth. One son stopped of his own accord at six and the younger two are still at it. It's very useful having that inbuilt comfort mechanism when big changes are looming.

Nota Bene said...

Oh dentists are so fussy about things like that. Mind you though, if it is a problem, you could just cut his thumb off, or tie his arms behind his back. That'll learn him.
If you need any other helpful advice, just ring

Kit said...

I would definitely wait until you've settled in over there before even thinking about it. A few months won't make much difference to the teeth, but will to him.
And think about a second opinion at their next check-up - another dentist might well think differently.

My youngest at six had to have a tooth out - due to lax tooth brushing. The dentist let her lie on me on the dreaded chair and she was absolutely fine. I had a hard time keeping my heart beat even though....

Melanie said...

Awww honey. You're not being pathetic, you're being his mummy and doing what mummies do. I agree with Laura that it's probably better to wait until after the move, once things have settled down.

Now from experience, having been allowed to suck my two fingers for way too long, I wish my mum had found a way to make me stop. At the age of ten I had to suffer through all sorts of dental trauma and as a result went an 11 year stretch without visiting a dentist.

In my 30s I finally found someone I trusted and adored (oh how I miss Dr. Koopah in San Francisco) and I now I'm almost done with my orthodontic treatment.

Saying all this not to scare you but to perhaps give you a bit of support when you decide to take that step with Littleboy2. What parents do for their kids is not always easy or pleasant and you may shed a tear or few (as I'm sure will he) but at the end of the day you'll always be Mummy, his hero and protector. "Giving up a thumb isn't so bad in light of all that" he may think..

Meanwhile, how's the prep for the move coming along?


Expat mum said...

I would definitely stop it as soon as you can - have you seen how much dental treatment costs over here? One thing you could do is put a plaster on it and see if that works. They also have little thumb guards here to prevent it. Seriously, if a dentist is telling you already that it's causing a problem, it's causing a problem.

nappy valley girl said...

Laura - well, that is my inclination. But then he might associate the trauma of no thumb sucking with the move to America, which would be bad....

WIHK - as I recall from school, most people end up having serious orthodontic work these days....

NB - you really should set up some kind of advice web site...

Kit - well,I will try a second opinion. But I think they will say the same - even I can see that his teeth are starting to stick out.

Melanie - prep for the move finally going OK! House on the lettings market, most of the electrical/plumbing work done, getting quote from packers (on your recommendation!). Still all rather stressful but feel as if am slowly getting on top of it...

Expat Mum - I know you are right. We did inadvertently try a plaster, when he cut his hand on a glass (don't ask) but he just rips them off. I guess I will have to bite the bullet some time soon.

Iota said...

Worth getting a second opinion?

I can see how you think it is the wrong time to try a potentially traumatic habit-break. BUT I do know a child whose second teeth didn't come through because she sucked her thumb at night. She had some kind of brace-thing fitted, and the top teeth were down within 2 weeks! But she was a lot older (9 or 10). Two does seem young.

Don't you have any blogger friends who are dentists?

Iota said...

PS Since you're so near the move, I'd wait. A few weeks can't make a difference. And even if you got him to stop, he might well relapse after the move, and then you'd have to do it all over again.

IrishMammy said...

I moved from Denmark to Ireland in 2007 with a 6 month old, now moved house again with an almost 2 year old boy whilst being 7 months pregnant within Dublin area. I wish you more success than I have had !! All the best,