Help! My Child Sucks His Thumb

sucking thumb

The rooting reflex, or the urge to suck, is the first skill that your baby learns. Even in the womb your child practiced sucking. The rooting reflex allows your baby to eat right away. It’s essential to survival. It’s perfectly normal then that your baby finds comfort sucking thumb or pacifier. Please understand that in most cases sucking a thumb or pacifier is not an issue until your child starts getting permanent teeth.

Why is thumbsucking a problem for oral development?

Before the permanent teeth erupt, thumbsucking isn’t an issue. Once your child gets permanent teeth, you should help him kick his habit. Sucking your thumb can cause issues with the ideal tooth alignment and growth. The thumb can also change the roof of your child’s mouth, which can lead to speech problems. Pacifiers also cause issues, but most kids lose interest in pacifiers long before their permanent teeth erupt. According to the American Dental Association, most children stop thumbsucking on their own between the ages of two and four. If you have a young thumbsucker, try not to worry. It’s likely your child will stop on her own.

Is your child an aggressive thumbsucker?

The harder a child sucks his thumb the more likely he is to develop oral issues from the habit. If your child is an aggressive thumbsucker, call attention to the problem and encourage him to be gentle. Children who suck vigorously may cause problems to both their primary and adult dentition. If you’re concerned that your child’s thumbsucking is affecting his baby teeth, contact your pediatric dentist for support.

How can I help my kid stop sucking his thumb?

First, find the reason for your child’s thumbsucking. Sometimes kids suck their thumbs to lessen anxiety. If you feel your child might be coping with anxiety by thumbsucking, help him discover other tools to soothe himself. For instance, your child may feel at ease with a soft teddy bear or blanket. Teach him to breathe deeply when he’s feeling anxious. Comfort your child when he needs it, and don’t brush his feelings aside. Give your child love and encouragement.

Explain why sucking your thumb is a problem. Your child is probably mature enough to understand and listen, even if the habit is hard to break. You may even want your child’s dentist to explain the longterm affects of thumbsucking. Some kids have the willpower to stop once they understand why it’s necessary.

Use lots of praise while your child is breaking the thumbsucking habit. Some children respond well to positive reinforcement. Tell your child you’re proud of him for trying to quit, and that you believe he’s strong enough to do it. Tell your child he can decide to stop, and that it may be hard. Other kids may respond well to a reward system, such as daily stickers or treats on the days he resists thumbsucking.

In more extreme cases, kids may need other methods to help them stop the urge. A bitter tasting nail polish has helped some kids resist the urge to suck their thumbs. If the bitter tasting nail polish doesn’t work, Dr. Nanna may suggest creating a habit appliance to help break your child’s habit. Dr. Nanna can provide more information as to whether your child is a candidate for their habit breaking appliance and provide more information as to how these appliances break your child’s habit.

At Polkdadot Pediaitric Dentistry, we help parents and children understand the dangers of late thumbsucking. If you’re in Alpharetta, Georgia, we would love to support your family through the challenge of thumbsucking and provide expert treatment to your child’s bright smile.

Dr. Nanna Ariaban

Dr. Nanna Ariaban

Pediatric Dentist at Polkadot Pediatric Dentistry
Dr. Nanna Ariaban is a board certified pediatric dentist and owner of Polkadot Pediatric Dentistry located in Alpharetta GA. She is a member of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, Georgia Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the Southeastern Society of Pediatric Dentistry, and the American Dental Association. Dr. Nanna provides highest quality pediatric dental care in Alpharetta, Milton, Johns Creek and Roswell, GA for infants, children, and teens. She was recently voted as America's top pediatric dentist for two years in a row.
Dr. Nanna Ariaban

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