updated 03/27/2009 AT 2:00 PM ET
•originally published 03/27/2009 AT 3:00 PM ET
It looks like Amy Winehouse still has a habit she should’ve kicked years ago … 20 years ago, to be more specific.
The sultry songstress, 25, is sometimes seen sucking her thumb, most recently while leaving a private clinic in London on Thursday. According to the American Dental Association, that’s fine – until a bit before your permanent teeth start to come in.
Thumbsucking, a natural and soothing reflex in infants that most people tire of by age 4 or 5, can cause serious tooth problems and even change the shape of the roof of a child’s mouth.
“We expect it to go away between ages 2 and 4,” Dr. Mary Hayes, D.D.S., a Chicago dentist, says. “Some people who continue to suck their thumbs get distortion of the mouth, they get a funny bite or what’s called a cross-bite, which in some people you can see as asymmetry.”
So what’s the woe-beset singer to do? Especially considering her multitude of other problems, whether they be legal, emotional, marital, or alcohol- and drug-related?
A Few Solutions
Experts usually use a combination of techniques. First, she should try to remove sources of stress in her life – admittedly no easy feat when you’re Amy Winehouse.
Second, she needs to receive more attention – and not the kind she’s been getting. Instead of scolding, which brings more stress into her life, she should get positive encouragement, according to Hayes. Peer pressure also can work wonders: She could spend more time with non-thumbsucking friends, in hopes she’ll pick up their social cues.
If all else fails, she could take the most drastic measure short of seeing an oral myologist who’s been trained to wean children off thumbsucking: She could wear socks over her hands, says Hayes.
But it ultimately comes down to Winehouse herself. “First of all, she has to want to stop,” says Hayes. “Just like smoking or any other habit.”