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How to Help a Thumb Sucker

Posted on 8/3/2020 by Gallatin Valley Pediatric Dentistry
Child sucking thumbThumb sucking starts innocently enough. Babies have an instinct to suck and some of them put their fingers or thumb into their mouth. Thumb or finger sucking can make the child feel secure. Often, a baby will use it as a method of self-soothing.

The habit can last for a while and many children stop without any intervention. You are most likely to see your child sucking his or her thumb when they are tired, upset or bored. Other behaviors may be present at the same time. The child may twirl a few strands of hair or rub her favorite blanket while sucking her thumb. However, most children abandon the practice before they start kindergarten.

How Thumb Sucking Can Cause Damage
The damage caused by thumb sucking after the child enters school can be physical and psychological. Other children may tease or ostracize the child who sucks his thumb and your child may feel isolated as a result.

Physically, a child who continues to suck the thumb when permanent teeth are growing in may develop an abnormal bite. In addition to this, some children also develop speech problems with prolonged thumb sucking. Such children may have trouble with “tongue-tip” sounds like the “S” sound. Other physical problems can include dry skin on the finger or thumb being sucked and problems with nail infections and development of calluses.

How to Stop Thumb Sucking
Breaking this habit will go much smoother if your child is on board with you. Recognize that this may be a very challenging habit for your child to quit. When it becomes the focus of a power struggle, it is time to back off. Not discussing it may cause your child to stop without further help.

A progress chart may be helpful. Children enjoy working toward prizes. Allowing your child an active role in the process of deciding rewards and the “rules” for getting prizes may help stop the habit.

Another time-tested approach that works for many is making the finger or thumb taste bad. Placing a bitter tasting liquid on the fingernail will remind the child not to suck. Over-the-counter options made specifically for detering thumb sucking may be helpful. There are also gloves for this purpose as well and several different devices that have varying degrees of success.

Get Professional Help
Some parents find that their child needs professional help to break the habit when other methods have not proven successful. In these situations, the dentist can recommend oral devices that prevent thumb and finger sucking. The devices can be removable or fixed.

Nearly three quarters of babies born start out sucking fingers or a thumb. Most quit the habit within the first year or two. If your child is older and all your attempts to stop the habit have failed, contact Gallatin Valley Pediatric Dentistry. It is a place you and your child will enjoy coming to. Call today to schedule an appointment for your child’s oral health checkup.

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