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My Child Is Thumb Sucking! What Should I Do?
Posted on 06/29/2015

My Child Is Thumb Sucking! What Should I Do?

862f660af060e90b312f8c894a70d137One of the more common reasons parents of very young children enter our Affiliated Pediatric Dentistry office is to discuss thumb sucking. Thumb sucking is a very soothing, subconscious habit that can make permanent changes in the tooth and jaw position if persistent. Many parents and their children have significant difficulty deciding why, when, and how to address this issue.

When should I start to worry?

Most dentists and orthodontists agree that if the habit is broken by age 4 or 5 there should be few long term issues associated with the habit. Most importantly, thumb sucking should be ceased by the time the first permanent teeth are erupting. Usually children will stop sucking their thumbs during the day due to peer pressure.

How will thumb sucking affect my child’s teeth?

How intensely a child sucks on fingers or thumbs will determine whether or not dental problems may result. Children who rest their thumbs passively in their mouths are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs. The thumb can make a very powerful impact on the development of proper alignment and biting of the front teeth and form of the upper jaw. Some of the most common problems that occur from thumb sucking are:

  • Pushed back lower front teeth
  • Pushed forward front teeth
  • Spaces between the upper and lower front teeth
  • Deformation of the upper jaw

How can we break the thumb sucking habit?

Most children stop sucking their thumbs without much intervention at all. However, some individuals need more help. First, in order to stop, children need to want to stop. Make sure you use positive reinforcement when trying to break this habit.

Many devices have been developed to stop children from sucking thumbs including:

  • Plastic thumb guards
  • Thumb splints
  • Spicy or bitter tasting paste to paint on the thumb
  • Socks on the hands
  • Many other methods

These methods can all be effective, but will not work for all children. Most importantly, don’t make your child feel bad if they are having difficulty. Stopping this habit is the same as taking away a comfort item like a blanket or pacifier. They should be rewarded and encouraged when they have made positive changes. Sometimes the first attempt at habit modification is not successful. If this happens, take a short break and try again. Eventually, with persistence, you will be successful.

Contact Affiliated Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics Today!

If you are having difficulty and need advice, don’t be shy about involving your child’s dentist. A discussion with someone other than a parent can be helpful encouragement and take some of the pressure away from other family members when dealing with this sensitive issue. Our knowledgeable doctors are always available to answer any questions you might have. You don’t have to face your problems alone. Call or schedule an appointment today!