4 Ways To End Thumb Sucking


Thumb sucking is a source of comfort for many children. In fact, it is a natural coping mechanism that has been observed when a baby is still in his or her mother’s womb. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns parents to discourage thumb sucking as an appropriate response to stress by the time they turn five years old. This is because thumb sucking becomes a detriment to a child’s oral health. The pressure from the thumb pushing the front teeth forward can cause severe misalignment of the teeth along with other dental health issues. Ending this bad habit requires the participation of both parent or guardian and child in order to permanently stop.

Risks of Thumb Sucking

Beyond misalignment of the upper and lower jaw, thumb-sucking can cause a whole host of oral health issues. The following include risks to watch out for:

  • Damage to the roof of the mouth
  • Change in the shape of the jaw
  • Introduction of germs and bacteria into the mouth

Therefore, it is best to end the habit before your child turns five years old or before their permanent teeth grow in. If you are having trouble getting your child to stop sucking their thumb, schedule an appointment to see a pediatric dentist for professional advice.

4 Tips to End Thumb Sucking

If you have been struggling with helping your child to break their thumb sucking habit, or if you just want to get some more ideas on thwarting the habit, the following are some tried-and-true tips:

  1. Identify Triggers & Teach New Coping Skills

Thumb sucking is a common response to anxiety. Try to pinpoint what is causing your child’s anxious feelings and teach them other ways to cope. Sometimes thumb-sucking can just be a common response to boredom, or even a way of seeking attention. Other stress-relief methods include the following:

  • Taking deep breaths
  • Using a stress ball
  • Guided Imagery- Invent a “happy place” with your child to imagine themselves in during a stressful time (a favorite store, vacation spot, a park, or a familiar room in your house)
  • Distraction- Engage your child in an activity such as drawing or coloring when they need stimulation
  1. Positive Reinforcement

When your child spends an entire night without sucking their thumb, praise them for their efforts!

  1. Try Using “Thumb Shields”

This includes wearing gloves at night to discourage thumb sucking during bedtime.

  1. Ask an Orthodontist About Orthodontic Devices

Orthodontic devices can be placed in the mouth to thwart the ability to suck. Some are removable, and some are non-removable. Visit a pediatric orthodontist for specific information.

Although this is a tough habit to kick, with the expert advice of a pediatric dentist and the help of parents and guardians, many children are able to end their thumb sucking habit with success.

Advanced Children’s Dentistry is a state-of-the-art pediatric dental practice that provides educational and thorough dental care to all of our little patients. Dr. Sybil is our pediatric dentist that utilizes the latest in dental technology as well as provides a comforting and fun environment for all of the kids that come in to see her. Schedule your child’s dental appointment at 516-758-KIDS today!

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Thumb Sucking

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