Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is a common habit that babies develop before they’re born. While most children naturally stop thumb sucking between the ages of two and four, some children might struggle to break the habit. If your child is still thumb sucking around the age of four, it’s important to help them stop.

Thumb sucking puts excess pressure on the teeth, gums, and jaw and can alter the growth and development of the jaw, leading to an open bite. In an open bite, the front teeth do not touch as they should, and instead point outward. Because the teeth are at an angle, the front teeth are more at risk to trauma. Open bites also make eating and chewing difficult, and requires orthodontic treatment.

Here are a few things you can do to help your child to help your child stop thumb sucking:

  • Praise and Reward

Positive reinforcement is the most effective way to encourage good habits. When your child avoids thumb sucking, offer praise or even a reward, like stickers. If you do notice them thumb-sucking, offer gentle reminders to stop.

  • Comfort and Distract

Thumb sucking is a self-soothing tool, so if you notice your child thumb sucking during certain situations that might be stressful or boring. If this is the case, finding ways to comfort your child or even entertain them might dissuade them from the habit.

  • Get Help

There are special tools that will help your child stop thumb sucking, including a bitter nail polish or an oral appliance called a tongue crib. This appliance physically prevents thumb sucking, and can usually break the habit in a few months. In other cases, sometimes having a dentist gently explain why it’s important to stop thumb sucking is all that’s needed to help your child stop.

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