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My two year old has a very bad habit of picking his gums. He started this bad habit right before he turned 2. He picks them until they bleed. He picks them at night when he's falling alseep or when he's watching a movie in his room during "down time" before bed.

Our dentist said there wasn't anything we could do except keep telling him not to do it. We talked to hime about it and he stopped for a while and his gums healed.

He just started doing it again and his poor gum line on the bottom incisors is really dug in. We have a reward/star chart up right now and it worked for a few days but tonight while watching a movie he did it again. I just broke down crying because I don't know what else to do. He ended up crying with me because he felt so bad....I think I traumatized him. He will be 3 in 2 months.

Can anyone help?

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It's been over a year since you posted but I write this to share with you/ others who hit this post on a search string. Your experience is exactly what I've had with my son culminating in a New Year's Eve event I'll not likely forget. My boy loves to pick exactly where your son does.. right at the incisors.. and always in his bed!! He uses his fingers, the tail of a plastic dinosaur, the sword in the hand of a plastic pirate figure.. anything. Dentist spoke with him but told us there's not much to do, not much to worry about, he'd outgrow hit.

He just turned five a couple of weeks ago and today (New Year's Eve!) said that he "bumped" his tooth on his bed and that it was loose. Sure enough, the left bottom canine was slightly loose so I sat with him and distracted him, hoping that leaving it alone would allow it to tighten back up. He fell asleep and after his nap, sure enough, it did not feel as loose.

After dinner, a board game, and bath, we tucked him into bed with a movie because it is a "home night". Not long after, he came into his sister's room where I was cleaning up some toys and said "Look Mommy"-- he was a bloody mess with is tooth half hanging out of his mouth. He had pulled it out!!!!

After frantic calls to the Doctor and word that nothing could be done because they will not re-insert baby teeth, he admitted that he wanted to lose a tooth now that he was 5 like his sister (she is 15 1/2 months older than him... big competition between the two on milestones).

Bottom line... anticipate that this may continue and if you can be absolutely harsh/stern/strict with stopping the habit, you may hopefully avoid this happening. It will be a long time before the permenant tooth comes in and I firmly beleive the tooth came out because of the weakened state from all of his picking.
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I thought I would reply just because I have had some experience with this- but on the other end. I am 33 and have picked my gums since I was 4 years old. I have no idea what caused it... I tend to do it more when I am bored, have racing thoughts, and most of the time I do it when I don't even know I am doing it. I also do it at work which is EXTREMELY embarrassing. I am going to go to a psychologist soon to see if it may be some form of OCD, Anxiety Disorder or ADHD. Most medical doctors have absolutely no advise because it is not in their field. I feel like I have lighting bolts going through my body with the amount of energy I have. I am exhaused yet hyper. It totally doesn't make sense but I do think it contributes to the problem. My mind really never slows down and I always have to be doing something. When I sit still is when I pick. It sucks! I have to have gum grafting this year to correct the exposed roots due to receding gumline which I am less than thrilled to do. I would advise you take the kids to therapy and maybe even a pysycologist to see if medication may help. I am usually against medicating kids... but if it makes it better then DO IT! But... if it doesn't work.... it is not the end of the world. Everyone has their habits, rituals and otherwise quirky behaviors. They may have to get some dental work when they are older, but it could be worse.

Hope this helps!
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I'm sure this was posted ages ago, but I figure I'll give a shot in making a response.

Be careful about how quickly you 'diagnose' this as a mental disorder. To be honest, I've been picking at my gums since I was a little kid. I have no disorders, I know for a fact I'm not bipolar, borderline personality, depressed, OCD, etc etc. In my case, I rub at my gums simply because it feels good. Its like scratching an itch that's been driving you crazy.

I mean, it makes sense to encourage him to stop, if it gets too crazy it can cause some seirous damage your gums and your teeth. My best advice is to watch him when he flosses, make sure he doesn't rub too hard on them, and maybe when he's a little older, explain why he shouldn't do it.

Don't beat yourself up over it, though. Chances are, it really isn't psychological, it just feels good. Especially to a little kid with new teeth. I know a lot of kids who did that when they were younger and stopped when their adult teeth came in, so I doubt it'll ever be a big problem. It never has been for me :-)
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I to have a 6 yr old son wjo has picking the same area. My son has lost 4 teeth early due to the picking. I have consulted eveyone Drs, Dentist etc. Yes this a form of OCD. I just recently have decided a mild med for my son is needed. we have started medication and it seems to be getting better. I have also started counciling for my son. Please do not ignore this it will get worse......
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Ok someone please help I found this post when googling, I know it sounds common but my son is one 15 mos old so I can't talk to him about not doing it- he always chews on my shirts before bed when I'm holding him but I just noticed him picking his gums and flinching like it hurt! I looked in his mouth and sure enough his gums under his front bottom teeth were bleeding.. he keeps trying to do it toward night time... is there anything I can do to stop this?!
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