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Thumb Sucking

Along with favorite blankets, teddy bears, and nap time, thumb sucking can be one of the most comforting aspects of childhood. In most cases, infants sucking their thumbs is not a cause for worry. However, it's important to pay attention to your child's habits, as this behavior has the potential to cause oral health issues down the line.

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What is normal thumb-sucking behavior?

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), most children stop thumb sucking on their own between the ages of two and four. They simply grow out of a habit that is no longer useful to them. However, some children continue sucking beyond the pre-school years. If your child is still sucking when his permanent teeth start to erupt, it may be time to take action to break the habit.

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7 ways to break the thumb sucking habit

Should you need to help your child end his habit, follow these guidelines:

  • Always be supportive and positive. Instead of punishing your child for thumb sucking, give praise when he doesn't.
  • Put a band-aid on your child’s thumb or a sock over the hand at night. This is not a punishment, but rather a way to help to remember to avoid sucking.
  • Start a progress chart with stickers for every day without thumb sucking. After a week and eventually a month, reward your child with a prize; by then the habit should be over.
  • Make your child an active participant in orthodontic treatment. This will increase his willingness to break the habit.
  • If you notice your child sucking when anxious, work on alleviating the anxiety rather than focusing on the thumb sucking.
  • Take note of the times your child tends to suck (long car rides, while watching movies) and create diversions during these occasions.
  • Explain clearly what might happen to the teeth from thumb-sucking.

Whatever your method, always remember that your child needs your support and understanding during the process of breaking the habit of thumb sucking.

If you suspect your child's thumb sucking may be affecting his or her oral health, please give us a call to schedule a visit. We can help you assess the situation and plan for treatment, if needed.