By Landon Hall, The Orange County Register
A while back we mounted a campaign to get our 4-year-old daughter to stop sucking her thumb. Her dentist recommended this nail-polish-like product called Mavala STOP, which tastes like what you’d imagine regular nail polish would, only much more bitter.
It works in combination with gentle psychology (”Em, let’s suck our thumb only at bedtime.”). Sometimes she even askes to have her nail “polished,” because she’s old enough to to know that she needs to stop her habit, even if she doesn’t yet know the benefits to her teeth and jaw of stopping now.
But this week we spilled some from the little 10-milliliter container (which costs about $10), and I cleaned it up with a wipe. I washed my hands, but some of the stuff stayed on my fingers, and it wasn’t until hours later that I tasted some, accidentally, while I was brushing my teeth.
Remember when Sylvester the cat would eat alum and his face would scrunch up? It was like that. Mavala STOP is made in Switzerland, but it tastes like it was created in a nonneutral country very hostile to the U.S.
Should I feel guilty for giving this product to my child? WebMD seems to think so. In its nine tips for stopping thumb-sucking, it says:
DON’T use the nasty-tasting stuff that is marketed to stop thumb sucking and finger sucking. “It’s just cruel,” (Beverly Hills family psychologist Jenn) Berman says. “It’s pulling the rug out from under your child and that’s not fair.”
See? Sometimes you don’t even know you’re being cruel and unfair until you’ve done some research. It’s given me pause. Right this minute she’s clutching her blankie (Simba 7) and watching “Sesame Street,” and she looks comfortable and content.
I called Em’s dentist, Dr. Anna Chand of Irvine Children’s Dentistry. She assured me that Mavala STOP is harmless and effective: It has helped 80 percent of the practice’s young patients stop thumb-sucking or nail-biting. The other 20 percent either don’t mind the taste of the gunk or actually like it. For those kids, the next step is a thumb-guard and then a specially made mouth appliance.
Young children may suck their thumbs or fingers from birth (or in the womb) to soothe themselves when they’re anxious. But by age 3 parents should be weaning them, Chand said. “The longer you wait, the harder it is for them to stop.”
Even before permanent teeth come in, vigorous sucking of the thumb or a pacifier can cause problems by narrowing the upper jaw. This can lead to a cross-bite, in which one or more of the upper teeth turn inward and don’t meet their bottom counterparts; or an open bite, in which the front teeth don’t meet. These conditions may require braces or surgery to correct.
Chand said her practice has tried other products, but they don’t work because the taste is too mild and so isn’t a deterrent. “Mavala STOP works because it tastes so bad.”
I interrupt “Abby’s Flying Fairy School” and say to Em, “It’s time to paint your nail.”
I don’t feel like a child-abuser. Another tiny battle won.