Slide thumbnailDr. Sabina Gupta - Petaluma Kids Dental Care

Treating Children and Teens

Stop Thumb Sucking

/Stop Thumb Sucking
Stop Thumb Sucking 2018-06-28T17:19:59+00:00

Tips for helping your child to stop thumb sucking:

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It is important to remember digit sucking is perfectly normal and should not be a cause for worry. Infants often use sucking as a way to sooth their sore gums during teething and is often a baby’s first way to self-calm. This habit persists during times of stress and becomes a tool for the toddler to feel secure and relaxed. Most children stop these habits on their own within the 2nd to 4th year which usually does not affect their permanent teeth which arrive around 6 years of age. If the sucking habit continues, it may interfere with the growth and development of the child’s teeth and jaw. Not all thumb sucking is equally damaging. The intensity of the sucking and the tongue’s thrust is what causes dental problems. Children who rest their thumbs passively in their mouth are less likely to have dental problems than children who suck aggressively. Observe your child’s technique. If he sucks vigorously, we may want to discuss these ways to break the habit at an earlier age.

  • The child should have a regular exam schedule with the doctor to determine any problems that may arise.
  • Praise your child for not sucking.
  • Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure or needing comfort. Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety and provide comfort to your child.
  • The key is to notice when and where sucking occurs and try to divert his attention by offering an alternative.
  • As soon as you see the thumb going toward the mouth, quickly distract your child into a hands on activity or insert a toy into both hands.
  • For an older child, involve him or her in choosing the method of stopping.
  • We can offer encouragement to your child and explain what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop thumb sucking.

If the above tips don’t work, remind your child of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night. As a last resort, we may prescribe a bitter medication to coat the thumb or the use of a mouth appliance. Pacifiers can affect the teeth in essentially the same way as sucking fingers and thumbs, however, it is often an easier habit to break. Breaking these habits take time and patience, working together with other members of the family as well as following these tips consistently will improve their effectiveness.