Thumbsucking and Teeth: How to Help Your Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb

Thumbsucking may have been a convenient self-soothing technique when your child was a baby, but now that he or she is getting older, it’s time to kick the habit. Constant pressure against the teeth can affect the way they grow, resulting in a large orthodontics bill down the road.

Surprisingly, the old advice of putting mittens on the child’s hands or slathering the thumb with something that has a bad taste is no longer the best practice. Taking away your child’s comfort item like this can be harmful to her emotional health. Instead, you want to encourage her to drop the habit by teaching alternative ways to find comfort.

Start a Conversation

If your child is old enough for you to worry about how thumbsucking could hurt her teeth, your child is old enough for you to talk about why it shouldn’t be done. Don’t shame your child for sucking her thumb, but explain your worries in terms she’ll understand. Older children might change their behavior after learning more about the consequences.

Build Awareness

Many children suck their thumbs out of habit. They don’t even realize that they’re doing it. When you catch your child sucking his thumb, ask him whether or not he knows that he’s sucking his thumb. As your child becomes more aware of the habit, he may be able to control it with ease.

Recognize and Remove the Triggers

Most likely, your child turns to thumbsucking at certain times. It might be when she’s nervous or scared. It could just be when she’s tired or bored. You can help her stop sucking her thumb if you proactively avoid these triggers. For instance, if she’s always sucking her thumb while watching TV, you might give her a little toy to fidget with.

Offer Alternatives

Kids use thumbsucking as a type of coping strategy. Instead of taking their strategy away, give them some new ones to use. If your child only sucks his thumb at night, a teddy bear could be a good alternative. If he sucks his thumb when he’s feeling shy, show him how he can take deep breaths or squeeze his thumb instead. Simple changes can make a big difference.

Reward Your Child

Let her know that stopping thumbsucking is a step toward being a “big kid.” Praise her when you notice that she didn’t suck her thumb at a time when she normally would have. Use a sticker chart or other motivational tool to help her get excited about giving it up.

Foster good teeth habits with your child from the start. Call us today to set up a dental appointment for your child.

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