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Why does my son chew on his shirt sleeve?
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Why does my son chew on his shirt sleeve?

My son is 8 years old and chews on his shirt sleeve.  I noticed several other children chewing thier shirt sleeve as well.  I am a dental assistant and thought maybe it has something to do with it soothing his gums due to the movement and development of his perminant teeth.  When I asked him why he did this, he said that it made his mouth feel betther.  Is it possible that this could be a common problem around this age group due to the fact that they are loosing their primary teeth and the permenant teeth are moving into place?.  He doesn't seem to have an anxioty problem.  He doesn't come across as a nervous child.  Nor has he delt with any tragic issues such as death, divorce, etc..


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13167_tn?1327197724
A lot of children chews sleeves and collars.    I've heard that chewing "reorganizes" the brain activities,  and allows children to focus.  You see kids working their tongues and lips when doing something that makes them have to focus -

Is he usually doing this during quiet work time,  during math or writing activities?  
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Avatar_n_tn
Thanks! This is interesting, because he does have a problem focusing sometimes, and he does chew on his shirt during homework time.  
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Avatar_f_tn
Another possibility - chewing on clothing or school supplies as books, pencils, paper, etc. can also be a sign of stress and/or anxiety.  Even though your son does not appear to have anxiety, the "stress" of the schoolwork or homework might precipitate this behaviour (after all, parents are not privy to all that goes on at school and thus not aware of the "stress" he might feel).  What does his teacher say about the chewing - is he/she able to notice when this behaviour occurs - certain subjects, social times, certain teachers, certain peers, etc.?  Anyway, just another possibility .....

P.S. Did you read the reply of the doctor on this topic - it is in blue print at the bottom of your posting.  
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535822_tn?1389452880
Sorry in advance ,' tastes good?  seriosly I think it is the same kind of reason they chew their finger nails, they concentrate and then its become a habit, in my Family it was from my Grand Ma down,or so I am told ,as I never knew my granma, curling our hair around our fingers, my Mom also did it and I still do at times usually if I am concentrating.
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Avatar_f_tn
I still do this at age 11 and I want to know how to stop it can any one plz tell me how to stop chewing the neck of my shirt and why I do this?
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535822_tn?1389452880
this is an old thread but read the answers above same applies, maybe you do it when you are concentrating on something you are doing ..
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Avatar_m_tn
My 4 year old son started licking his hands and rubbing them across his face, as well as sucking on his shirt collar and chewing on his blanket about two months ago. We have been so frustrated with the rash on his face, the wet and stretched out clothes, the smell, and his wet fingers touching everything. We have been trying punishment, taking away his favorite toys and making him go shirtless and we tried giving him gumballs to chew on instead. But none of that worked. I realized after reading these posts that we have been going about this all wrong. He can't stop because it is an automatic habit response to anxiety or stress in any big or small way. I also realized that the behavior started during some intense relationship drama my husband and I were having that may have brought on his anxiety. I am also bi-polar and I know all too well the automatic responses to triggers bringing on unhealthy behavior. Anxiety and depression like symptoms are very normal in my family. My younger brother sucked on his collars and sleeves for years. We have taken a whole new approach to my son. We don't punish him for what he can't control yet. We have since apologized for being so hard on him and told him many kids including his uncle do the same thing. He is a much happier boy knowing that we love and support him no matter what. Seeing his spirit lifted has calmed this sore spot in our family. Because, he will decide when he doesn't need the behavior anymore. I realized that if we weren't supportive of how he chooses to cope with things now, when he becomes an adolescent, I don't want him into more dangerous things.  Allowing him to not feel ashamed greatly empowered my son.
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973741_tn?1342346373
Most of my research on this indicates a level of stress or anxiety and a child is trying to self soothe by chewing/ mouthing their shirt sleeves and collars.  My son does this and it is usually when he is stressed/anxious or bored.  Sensory therapy shops that you can find on line have lots of tools to help with oral soothing in an appropriate way.  For example, the sell rubber p's and t's that are made for this purpose.  They are smooth or textured and I whip one out if my son is at that sleeve.  At school they use coffee stirrers (kindergarten and elementary school).  You could tie a rubber tubing piece around his wrist or make a necklace of beads.  They make toys that a child can put in their mouth and some vibrate.  I was shocked at how much my son used a vibrating mouth toy at 4 and 5.  That oral calming mechanism is pretty intense for some kids.  Oral stimulation will also calm and organize a stressed out brain-----  and then be able to focus better as others have mentioned.  Drinking something thick through a straw for example is a good activity before school.  goodluck
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Avatar_f_tn
My son says he does this when he is hungry, but I question that response b/c it is only happening at school, not at home or in other environments.  It could be a little or both.
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Avatar_n_tn
My Grandson age 6 chews his sleeves they are constantly soaked and we live in a cold climate. His mother dresses him in short sleeves and it eliminates most of the problem.  I didn't realize this & I bought him 3 new long sleeve shirts.  I dressed him in one and put a new warm sweatshirt over it and allowed him to play a video game while I was changing clothes getting ready to take him to the movies.  I came back to the living room ready to go and both his sleeves were soaked all the way through to the under shirt.  He was playing his video games his favorite thing to do, so I don't think that was causing stress.  I but I agree its a habit and he was concentrating on the game.  I like the idea you have to make a brascelet out of teething toys.  I'm going to suggest that to his parents.  I handled it wrong and yelled aren't you proud of the new clothes Grandma got you why do you want to ruin them?  He was sobbing & made me feel terrible, and he said, his mom tells him he must be hungry when he chews his sleeves.  I caught him chewing again while we were waiting in line for food at McDonalds this time I gently reminded him and he quit right away when he realized it.  After he said see Grandma I am hungry!  
2 weeks later I went to his Christmas program at school and his face was beat red!  His mom said he had been chewing on his red sleeves all day at school and the dye had stained his face,  Are the teachers not allowed to say anything to the children when they do this?
WorrywartGrandma
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973741_tn?1342346373
Well, it is hard.  I can tell you that when my son chewed frequently, he'd just be standing in line at school, sometimes sitting watching a show, etc.  He has sensory integration disorder and it is a way to get input to the nervous system.  Calming/soothing happens more frequently than just when we are anxious or nervous.  I wonder if there is something going on with his nervous system.  It is a classic sign that there is.  

My son did this frequently until we helped him "regulate" his nervous system.  We did this through lots of physical activity.  We went to indoor swimming pools and swam, we ran laps around the house, we did obstacle courses where he had to crawl, jump, roll, etc.  We did crazy animal walks like crab, bear, snake and leap frog (amont others).  We played games where he'd jump on a mattress on the floor or I'd take all the couch pillows and all others and put them in a big pile and he'd crawl through them.  I'd gently push for deep pressure.  All of this may sound crazy----------  but it takes that overactive nervous system and slows it down.  Then the need to do the things like chewing are less.  

Now your grandson is very self conscious about the chewing whether you realize it or not.  He still does it which shows you what a strong impulse it is.  I think that you could even give him a thick piece of chewing gum here and there which helps get that chewing action.  Coffee stirrer or straw works.  Or the multiple things they sell in therapy on line shops (Therapysource or therapyshoppe are two I know of).  Remember, there is a subconscious reason he is doing it.  Habit----------  well, what started that habit in the first place?  He has incentive to not do it (doesn't want to get in trouble)-----  and still does.  So, you need to give him alternatives and work on his overall nervous system.

Teachers . . . well, no.  They usually will not remind a child to not do this too much as they have a full plate these days.  They may say "please do not chew on your sleeve" once or twice but really can't moniter this all class long.  And there is something to not wanting to draw all of the other kids attention to it.  

I know it is hard.  My son has pretty much stopped doing it this year (also age 6 and in the first grade).  So, work on the other things with the nervous system and he may have less of an impulse.  good luck
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Avatar_m_tn
There are many reasons why kids chew their sleeves.  Focus being the 1st thing that I would go with then, self soothing of anxiety, then habit.  Children with Autism, as well as nervous children may chew subconsciously.  There are supplemental things you can provide to get the shirt out of the mouth but they do not stop the behavior.  Ideally if this is a coping mechanism you don't want to stop it but mabe redirect it to a more acceptable outlet.  They do make wrist bands and items specifically for kids who chew.  Chewy cuffs, Chewy wristbands, chewnoodles, are a few.  I would opt for that route while looking into the cause of the chewing.  
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Avatar_m_tn
You should research information on Sensory Integration or Sensory Processing Disorder.  Chewing on something does help with concentration for these children.  To my knowledge it doesn't have anything to do with anxiety.  You can find chew tools from an occupational therapy catalogue.
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Avatar_m_tn
my wife who is 29 chews through her blazer sleeves and also the edges of the pillow and bed covers, if she dont chew than she will pick at it for as long as 2 hours. day or night, in public. it has never stopped. i have read comments about this but they all relate to young people beahving this way.please advise what this could be
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Avatar_f_tn
All three of my boys have done this starting around age 11 .. My youngest was born with a cleft palate and is 5.1/2 and is from a different father.  He  is already showing signs of shirt and finger chewing. Maybe learning younger from older siblings? My oldest is now 18 ans stopped chewing around 13-14 when he became aware of it and entered high school.
I am also Bi polar with anxiety Disorder.
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973741_tn?1342346373
I think you hit the nail on the head.  Very often this chewing is associated with self calming due to anxiety or nervousness.  replace the shirt/ sleeve chewing with a straw, gum, or something like that.  Also a hand fidget can help.  good luck
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