Thumb Sucking Help

Thumb-sucking and finger-sucking are one of the most comforting aspects to a child. Most children begin sucking their thumb or fingers from a young age, with many even beginning inside the womb. Roughly 75%-95% of infants suck their thumbs, so chances are, there is a former thumb sucker in your family. Unfortunately, excessive thumb-sucking or finger-sucking can severely impact your child’s health, so it is important to watch for signs.

What Signs Should I Watch For?

Sucking is a natural reflex for an infant, and it serves an important purpose: providing a sense of security and contentment. It can also be relaxing, which is why children suck their fingers while falling asleep. According to the Dental Association, most children stop sucking on their own, between the ages of 2-4. They simply grow out of a habit that is no longer useful to them. However, some children continue beyond preschool years. If your child is still sucking on their fingers when their permanent teeth start to erupt, it may be time to take action to break the habit.

What Are The Consequences Of Thumb Sucking

If the sucking is passive (thumb or finger gently resting inside their mouth), oral health issues are unlikely. Aggressive sucking, however (placing pressure on their mouth or teeth), may cause issues with tooth alignment and mouth growth. Extended sucking affects both their teeth and shape of their face, leading to issues such as improper bites, crooked teeth, or misaligned teeth and jaw.

How Can I Help My Child Quit Thumb Sucking?

Be supportive and positive! Instead of punishing your child for aggressive sucking, give praise when they don’t. Punishing them for the activity is likely to create resentment, and a lack of trust in your judgment. Explain clearly what may happen to their teeth if they keep sucking and support their attempts to stop.

If you notice your child sucking when they are anxious, help them reduce their anxiety. In that situation, sucking on their fingers is a symptom of a larger problem, so the larger problem should be addressed first to ensure it does not spiral into worse symptoms. You can try putting a band-aid on your child’s thumb or fingers, or a sock over their hand at night. Let them know that this is not a punishment, but rather, a way to help them remember to avoid the behavior. You can also try taking note of what times your child tends to suck their thumb and create diversions during those times. As always, use your best judgment. If you suspect your child’s finger sucking is affecting their oral health, give us a call.

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