Thumb Sucking: A Habit That May Damage Your Child’s Teeth and Palate

It’s easy to understand why babies and young children suck their thumbs. Thumb sucking is a common habit that springs from a baby’s natural rooting and sucking reflexes. Sucking the thumb makes an infant feel secure and helps to soothe them and put them to sleep.

Most children stop sucking their thumbs on their own, usually during the toddler ages of 2 to 4. For older children who continue the habit, peer pressure at school may be enough for them to stop.

Physically, there is little reason to be concerned about a child’s thumb sucking until the permanent teeth come in, although aggressive thumb sucking can cause problems in the baby teeth. When the adult teeth are not growing in properly, the teeth may not line up correctly, or the constant presence of the thumb may affect the roof of the mouth or palate.

How To Encourage Your Child To Stop Thumb Sucking

Sometimes thumb sucking stops if the parents ignore it, as the child may be using the behavior to get attention.

Another way to approach this problem is to talk to your child about the habit. Explain how the teeth are being harmed and employ one of these techniques:

  • Watch for trigger situations. If stress brings on thumb sucking, look for the stressor and resolve the problem. Offer your child a stuffed animal or pillow to squeeze.
  • Provide small rewards as a means of positive reinforcement. Track each successful day with a sticker on a calendar. Offer fun activities like a trip to the playground or an extra book for achievements.
  • Create a special and private signal such as scratching your nose that your child will recognize as a public reminder to stop thumb sucking. Criticizing, scolding and especially ridiculing your child are never good methods to address a bad habit.

We Can Help

Please come in to see us to discuss the effect of thumb sucking on your child’s teeth. Your youngster may respond to a chat with us on why it’s important to stop this habit.

Your child may be a candidate for a special mouth guard or other dental appliance that can temporarily interfere with the sucking reflex.

Let Us Know If You Have Questions on Any Aspect of Oral Health Care

Dr. Lorraine Burio of Candlewood Dental Care has been treating and educating patients for over twenty-five years. Our office serves the New Fairfield, New Milford, Danbury, and Sherman areas of CT and Pawling, Patterson and Putnam Lake of New York. You can call us at 203-746-1200 or make an appointment here.