While thumb sucking is a common occurrence among babies and toddlers, it can result in many complications – especially in terms of the child’s oral health.

Among these include the development of an overbite, the onset of an open bite, skin complications, issues with the way the child speaks and/or eats, and social issues. If you are ready to see your child move past this habit, continue reading to learn how you can help them stop sucking their thumb.

Sucking thumb

Step #1: Develop an Understanding of Why Thumb Sucking Starts

Not all children suck their thumbs; however, it is a common habit due to the natural sucking/rooting reflexes that a child is born with. When a baby sucks their thumb, it soothes them and makes them feel secure. This is why the habit may last into the toddler years.

Step #2: Determine When Your Child Should Stop Sucking Their Thumb

In most instances, thumb sucking stops around the age of 7 months; however, it could go as long as the age of 4. Naturally, it is ideal to put an end to thumb sucking as quickly as possible.

Step #3: When Permanent Teeth Erupt, Start the Process

When your child’s permanent teeth start to erupt, you should intervene and make every effort to stop the thumb sucking. Failure to do so could result in their oral health being detrimentally impacted.

If you have a thumb sucker that constantly has their fingers in their mouth and suck in an aggressive manner, you should consult with a pediatric dentist for assistance.

Step #4: Identify Triggers

Many children suck their thumb as a way to respond to stressors. You should identify these triggers.

Once discovered, create an alternative means of helping your child cope.

Examples include giving hugs, words of encouragement, or providing the child with a stuffed animal.

Step #5: Inform and Reinforce

You should tell your child that it is not good for them to suck their thumb. If you catch them trying to stop, reinforce the behavior in a positive way. You could go to the park, give them stickers each day they don’t engage in thumb sucking, or provide other small rewards.

Remember, stay positive.

You should never ridicule the child for the behavior or react in a negative fashion. Doing so could result in their sucking their thumbs even more.

The Pediatric Dentist

If your child continues to suck their thumb and nothing is working, you should consult with their pediatric dentist.

Often – depending on the child’s age – the dentist can talk to the child and encourage them not to suck their thumb. They may be able to tell them how the activity is hurting them or even give them alternative methods for coping with the habit.

Your dentist may even be able to offer incentives for a child that has to work extra hard to eliminate the thumb sucking habit.

If you need more information or would like more techniques that can be used, contact us today.