Kick Your Kid's Thumb-Sucking Habits

Posted on April 30, 2013 in Children’s Oral Health

Learned in the womb and perfected as an infant, many children turn to thumb sucking in times of stress. Kids also use this practice in times of boredom, illness, and even at bedtime. This self-soothing technique has helped children gain independence and parents keep their sanity.

But when it goes beyond the first few years, thumb sucking can lead to a mouth–or jaw–full of problems. Even kids who do not have their permanent teeth yet are at risk for development issues.

Constant pressure on the jaw and mouth caused by thumb sucking can change the way these parts develop. Sucking can cause the upper jaw to narrow which changes the child's bite. As the child gets older, teeth in the back of the mouth are forced to take on the brunt of chewing. This can lead to dental issues down the road.

So what can you do to help your kid kick the habit?

Limit the amount of time you allow your child to suck his or her thumb. Restrict thumb sucking to in the house, do not allow it in public.

Help your child be aware of thumb sucking. Many kids do it unconsciously. Help them find another way to feel comfort.

Don't use the nasty-tasting topical stuff. It's not nice and it's not fair. Remember, they're children.

Don't cover their hand with a glove or mitten. Would you want to wear winter gear indoors to help you break a bad habit?

A child who continues to suck his or her thumb is dealing with anxiety the best way they know how. Be patient as you help them work through finding another way to self-comfort.