The Effects of Thumb Sucking and How to Stop It – Our Guide

Thumb-sucking is common among babies and toddlers. It’s a natural reflex that is required for nutrition whether a child is breast or bottle feeding. It is also an instinctual response to calm and soothe a baby in times of stress or being unsettled. In fact, many babies begin sucking their thumbs as practice for their oral movements while they are in their mothers’ womb. This is completely normal and many will continue to suck their thumb or finger until they become toddlers and even older.

For some children, thumb-sucking grows into a habit, and this can become a problem, particularly when the teeth begin to erupt. So when is the right age and time for a child to stop sucking their thumb?

Well keep reading to find out about the negative impacts of thumb and finger sucking and a few important tricks to stop it.

Damage Caused by Thumb Sucking

Now you might be asking, why the concern about sucking habits?

Well this funny little habit can actually cause a lot of damage.  Frequent and vigorous thumb sucking in particular may lead to dental and oral development as well as orthodontic issues. Firstly, research shows that sucking habits may prevent teeth from fully erupting or cause a problem where the teeth protrude outwards called an overjet.  Also sucking can create an open bite where there is a large opening between the front teeth, even when the jaw is closed. Thumb-sucking can also affect and change the tooth position and proper development of the mouth leading to crowding and increasing the need for orthodontics in the future.

Tips to Stop Thumb Sucking

Below are a few effective ways to help your child overcome their thumb-sucking habit:

  • Praise: It helps to praise your child when you notice that they have gone for some time without sucking.
  • Root-cause: It’s a good idea to find out the root cause of why your child is thumb-sucking. Is it stress?  Are they needing their thumb to settle or feel better.  Perhaps they do it when they are tired?  By understanding the why, you’ll be better equipped to understand their triggers and address the problem.
  • Positive reinforcement:  Many children respond well to rewards and positive reinforcement.
  • Hand-wrapping: Be extra careful, but when your child takes a nap or sleep at night, a sock or bandage around the hand can help stop the habit.
  • Bitter Tasting nail polish: Lastly, you can buy bitter nail polishes and put them on your child’s thumbs or fingers to deter sucking. When your kid starts sucking, they will get a horrible taste and this can often discourage the sucking.

Last Words

Now, if you’ve made your best efforts, followed the tips given, and things still don’t work, it’s time to seek professional help. A clinician who has special training in this area can help break the thumb-sucking cycle for your child once and for all.

We’re a thumb sucking clinic that helps families with children with them, finger and pacifier sucking habits – get in touch today to see how we can help!

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