Most children will stop thumb sucking on their own between age 2 and age 4. School-age children will receive additional pressure from other kids to quit. Even so, some children continue to suck their thumb after their permanent teeth start to erupt, which can cause long-terms problems with mouth and tooth alignment.
So if your child persists in thumb sucking, here are 4 simple suggestions for prompting change:
#1 – Use the power of the positive – This is the first rule of progress. Do not scold your child for thumb sucking. Instead, praise them when they’re not sucking their thumb. You can also reward your child in some way when they refrain from sucking during difficult times, like when they’re separated from you for extended periods.
#2 – Tune in to the real issues – Your child is sucking their thumb for comfort when they’re feeling insecure. When you see thumb sucking behavior, tune in with your child and uncover the source of their stress. By dealing with the real cause of their anxiety, you can often calm your child and relieve the need for thumb sucking.
#3 – Make use of the pacifier – This is counter-intuitive because a pacifier will also cause major difficulties with mouth and tooth alignment. However, it’s much easier to manipulate and modify the behavior with a pacifier than trying to do make changes with sucking the thumb or fingers. So put in the pacifier when necessary.
#4 – Reminders always help – Your child might understand that they need to stop thumb sucking, but forget and go right back to it. You can remind your child of their habit by bandaging their thumb or putting a sock on their hand at night. In some cases, your pediatric dentist might recommend the use of a mouth appliance.
Your pediatric dentist can also be a valuable resource in encouraging your child to stop thumb sucking and gently explaining to them what could happen if they continue. With two years of additional training in children, pediatric dentists knows how to speak with your child in ways that your little one can best understand.