Experts from Nationwide Children's Hospital answer families' health questions

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent
I have a 5-year-old entering into kindergarten who still sucks two of her fingers in part as a self-soothing habit. I am looking for some advice on how to teach her other methods of soothing herself as well as getting her to quit. I think she'll outgrow it, but my husband would like to take a more direct approach in getting her to stop.

Childhood habits like your child sucking on her fingers are not usually something to worry about. Many kids suck their fingers to calm and comfort themselves. However, frequent or extreme finger sucking beyond four to five years of age can cause problems, including dental problems (such as overbite), thumb or finger infections and being teased.

If your daughter doesn't seem to be outgrowing her habit of sucking on her fingers, try some positive reinforcement. Reward her with an extra bedtime story or other favorite special activity when she doesn't suck her fingers. If your daughter is sucking her fingers in front of you, gently try to divert her attention by giving her a toy or doll to play with instead.

Be generous with the praise, too. It can also help eliminate anything causing her anxiety or stress. And remember, most habits in young kidsare just passing phases.

For the best success, it's important that your child is also motivated to break the habit. And because habits take time to develop, they're also going to take time to be replaced by alternative behavior, so be patient.

Dr. Bruce P. Meyer is Administrative Medical Director and Chief Ambulatory Officer at Nationwide Children's Hospital. Meyer clinically oversees all ambulatory activities and is also active with the pediatric residency-training program.

With Halloween and all that candy almost upon us, it's gotten me to thinking about preventing cavities and these fluoride rinses that are supposed to be helpful. I have a

7-year-old and a 3-year-old. Can either or both of them safely use fluoride rinses?

Fluoride rinses are considered supplemental or additional fluoride, and should be used only upon the advice of a dentist who has assessed your child's risk of developing tooth decay.

The only two forms of fluoride advocated for all children are fluoride toothpaste and water fluoridation. For the vast majority of children, these two forms should be adequate to prevent tooth decay.

Children who have heightened risk for tooth decay due to diet, medication, orthodontic appliances or some other factor(s) might benefit from a fluoride rinse, but this should be determined by your child's dentist.

Allowing the toothpaste to remain on the teeth after brushing accomplishes the same effect a fluoride rinse might, so parents are advised to not have their child rinse after brushing, particularly at bedtime when the fluoride-containing toothpaste residue can leave a lingering effect during sleep.

If you have any questions about your child's dental health, contact your pediatric dentist or pediatrician for more information.

Dr. Paul S. Casamassimo is Chief of Dentistry at Nationwide Children's Hospital. His interests include health policy and children with special health care needs.

My child has trouble going to the bathroom and is often constipated. Is this normal, and how serious is it?

Constipation is a very common problem among kids. A child is considered constipated when he or she has fewer than three bowel movements in a week, has difficulty having a bowel movement and when the stools are hard, dry, unusually large or painful to pass.

Constipation usually isn't a cause for concern. It's preventable and most cases can be remedied with healthy eating and exercise habits.

  • Give your child more fluids
  • Serve more fiber at meals
  • Make sure kids get enough exercise
  • Get kids in the habit of going to the bathroom
  • If stools are hard, consider adding fruit juices to the diet

In rare cases constipation is a sign of other medical illnesses, so keep your child's pediatrician informed if your child continues to have problems or if the constipation lasts for two to three weeks.

Dr. Carlo Di Lorenzo is Chief of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology at the Nationwide Children's Hospital. Di Lorenzo has co-authored the only book on pediatric gastrointestinal motility and serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition and Neurogastroenterology and Motility.


Happy, Healthy Halloween

With sugar overload at Halloween it's nice to offer some alternatives to candy when trick-or-treaters come to your door:

  • Pencils, stickers, toys, temporary tattoos, little bottles of bubbles and small games like tiny decks of cards are great non-food treats.
  • Snacks such as small bags of pretzels, small boxes of cereal, sugar-free gum, trail mix, small boxes of raisins and popcorn are good alternatives to candy.
  • Sugar-free candy is always an option and can still be appealing to trick-or-treaters.
  • Steer clear of snacks or toys that could pose choking hazards to very young children, and remember to have a safe and happy Halloween!

Watch Pediatric HealthSource at 5 p.m. Thursdays on 10TV News HD. To learn more about Nationwide Children's Hospital, visit

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