Knowledge Zone

Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is a natural habit for infants and young toddlers. While thumb sucking is an appropriate and useful behavior for young children, it can still lead to dental problems when permanent teeth begin to develop. Sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth. It can also cause changes in the palate. Pacifiers can affect the teeth essentially the same way, but it is often an easier habit to break.

Children usually stop sucking between the ages of two and five years. If you notice changes in your child’s primary teeth or are concerned about your child’s thumb sucking come in for a consultation.

A few suggestions to help your child break the habit:

  • Provide positive reinforcement when your child refrains from sucking.

  • Encourage your child to be self aware when he/she is sucking 

  • Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure or seeking comfort. Help your child find another way to soothe him/herself, like a blanket or stuffed animal.

  • 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 sucking.

 

If these tips do not work, remind your child of their habit by bandaging their thumb or putting a sock on their hand at night. We may prescribe a bitter medication to coat the thumb or the use of a thumb/finger or mouth appliance.