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The information provided by The Thumbsucking Clinic is for educational and informational purposes only. The information provided in this video is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional advice or care. Please book an appointment with The Thumbsucking Clinic or a registered health professional for individual assessment and advice.Thumb and finger sucking can cause a great deal of stress in families. Parents worry about their child being bullied or causing damage to the teeth or jaws (and costly dental fees!), and children often feel ashamed that they are unable to break the habit.
There are certain key elements to stopping a child from sucking. First of all, there is a comprehension that is reached by age five that allows a child to begin to understand why they need to stop thumb or digit sucking.
Research has found that when a child sucks their thumb or fingers, there are particular neurotransmissions that take place. Hormones like dopamine are released and the child feels a real sense of comfort and relaxation, so even if a child wants to stop…well, it’s pretty hard to fight against hormones!
Triggers such as blankets, toys and hair pulling can also contribute to the sucking, so in many cases it’s very difficult for the child to stop their sucking until the trigger is removed.
Clinical studies are showing that physiological issues such as breathing, sleep, developmental problems and poor gut health can have major impacts on oral growth and development and may also be related to habits like thumb and finger sucking.
It’s natural to feel frustrated when you have tried everything to no avail, but it is important to stay calm and connected with your child, and dig a little deeper to see if there are any psychological or physiological reasons that could be the underlying cause. Early intervention is key, so if your instinct tells you the sucking has gone on longer than developmentally normal, it’s time to act as successful treatment can have a significant impact on your child’s health and wellbeing.
Five Tips If Your Child Is a Thumb Sucker
- Take note of when the behaviour happens and try to replace it with something else. For example, if they are sucking in the car, give them a fiddle toy or putty to play with
- Try a thumb glove or Band-Aids
- If you identify a certain toy or item is a trigger, suggest that it goes on “holiday” while your child works to break the habit
- Give active praise when you see your child not sucking
- Take your child to a health professional specially trained in this area if you are concerned