How to Stop Thumbsucking in Children

Thumbsucking occurs when a child places their thumb in their mouth and sucks. This is a natural reflex for children and can occur when they are hungry, bored, out of habit, and sometimes when they need comforting. Children typically give up thumbsucking between 2 and 4 years old. Problems occur when children suck their thumb and are ready for their adult teeth to grow in. Please know that pacifiers can affect the teeth just as much as thumbsucking.

The American Dental Association offers some tips on getting your little one to stop thumbsucking:
  1. Praise children for not sucking, instead of scolding them when they are.
  2. Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure or needing comfort. Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety and provide comfort to your child.
  3. For an older child, involve him or her in choosing the method of stopping.
  4. Your dentist can offer encouragement to a child and explain what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop sucking.
  5. If the above tips don’t work, remind the child of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night. Your dentist or pediatrician may prescribe a bitter medication to coat the thumb or the use of a mouth appliance.

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Learn more about pediatric dental care & pediatric dentists:

Dental care for special needs children
How to reduce your child’s risk of tooth decay
What is a pediatric dentist