Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is a common practice for infants because it gives them a sense of emotional security and comfort. Many experts do not find thumb sucking to be a problem until the children is around the age of 5 when baby teeth start to fall out and permanent teeth make their way in. Unfortunately, if your child is still sucking their thumb at this age, it can be a difficult habit to break and can cause severe dental problems. Read on to learn what to do to help your baby stop sucking their thumb before it becomes habitual – If your child is older and has formed this sucking habit, read on to learn the negative effects of thumb sucking and how to stop it once and for all. To help your baby not form a habit of sucking his or her thumb, apply baby socks to their hands at nap time and bedtime. Doing so will prevent your baby from putting their fingers in their mouth in the first place and will help teach them to self-soothe without needing to suck on something. If the thought of that seems unbearable, allow your baby to use a pacifier to bring them comfort while they sleep – but only use a pacifier when they sleep and not all day long. Pacifiers can become just as habitual as thumb sucking and have their own list of problems in the long run.

If your child is older and still sucking his or her thumb, many dental problems can develop. Your child’s thumb sucking can cause the teeth to be pushed out of alignment causing them to be pushed forward which leads to an overbite. The upper and lower jaws can become unaligned while the roof of the mouth can become malformed. Due to the protruding of your child’s teeth from thumb sucking, they could also have a hard time pronouncing words properly.  So what are parents to do if their child won’t stop thumb sucking?

First and foremost, it’s important to state that parents should NEVER discipline their child for sucking his or her thumb. Making your child feel bad about it will lead to more problems - the child can become more introverted and will suck his or her thumb even more to find comfort from the negative feedback. Instead, use positive reinforcement with your child and encourage them that they can and will get past this. You can reward your child with treats or prizes for a certain length of time they go without thumb sucking. Apply Band-Aids to the thumbs since this helps to discourage the child from wanting to suck. If your child falls asleep with their thumbs or fingers in their mouth, gently take them out when he or she falls asleep.

If your child is older and still thumb sucking, try to figure out when the thumb sucking occurs. It may be at times of high stress or anxiety, so talk to your child and help him or her find other ways to relieve stress. Remember to be loving and encouraging. Older children also have the option of visiting the dentist to have a specific dental appliance cemented to the upper teeth which lies on the roof of the mouth to prevent thumb sucking from occurring. It works because thumb sucking does not feel as soothing with the dental appliance installed in the mouth.

Parents need to feel safe speaking with their child’s pediatrician and dentist as well to find a resolution that best fits their child’s needs. The sooner the issue is resolved, the better the child’s dental development and overall confidence will be. The sooner bad habits are stopped, the happier everyone will be!