Thumb sucking is a comforting behavior and a natural reflex among young children. Some engage in the habit to feel happy or to soothe themselves, while others suck their thumb (as well as pacifiers or other objects) to learn more about their surroundings.

Problems Later On

Kids’ dentists in Millcreek note that thumb sucking should cause no problem when kids stop between two and four years old. This habit, however, can become problematic after the adult or permanent teeth erupt. This is because it can affect not just the growth and development of the mouth, but also the teeth’s alignment and the roof of the mouth. The same can also be true for prolonged use of a pacifier.

The way kids suck their thumb can play a role in determining whether they will develop teeth problems in the future or not. Those who engage in the habit aggressively or vigorously are much likely to develop problems than those who suck their thumbs passively. Problems with primary teeth are also likely for aggressive thumb suckers.

Stopping on Their Own

Child eating vegetables

Most kids usually stop the habit on their own between the ages of two and four years old. This is the time when they spend more time playing or exploring their surroundings. Keep in mind, however, that even though they have stopped sucking their thumb, there is still a chance that they might return to the habit when they’re stressed.

What You Can Do

If you’re worried about the thumb sucking behavior of your child, especially when you notice changes in their primary teeth or if they continue to do so after the age of four, it is best to consult your dentist. There are also some things you can do help them break the habit:

  • Talk to your kids about thumb sucking. Tell them that you will be there when they are ready to stop. You can also help them choose a method for stopping.
  • Don’t scold your kids when you see them sucking their thumb. Instead, praise them for not doing so. Criticizing or ridiculing them can be traumatic and cause more problems.
  • When you see the kids sucking their thumb, create a diversion by giving them something to do with their hands like coloring a picture, playing ball, and others.
  • Offer small rewards like an extra bedtime story or stickers (in a personalized sticker chart) when they are not sucking their thumb.
  • Find out what’s triggering the behavior. Some kids suck their thumb when they are stressed or feeling insecure. Focus on easing their worries and providing comfort.

Help from the Dentist

The dentist can explain to your kids what could happen if they don’t stop and provide encouragement to break the habit. It is not common for doctors and dentists to use unpleasant techniques like putting a bandage on the thumb, covering the nail with something bitter, or wearing a glove or mitten. In some cases, this can frustrate young kids and make them more anxious.

Thumb sucking is a hard habit to break for many kids. Pressuring your child to stop, however, can do more harm than good, as it can delay the process. You should also know that they would eventually grow out of it and stop when they are ready. You can still continue with the tips mentioned above, but be sure to be patient.