Breaking Your Child of the Thumb Sucking Habit

Most children will suck their thumb, but usually they stop doing this after they are toddlers. Babies naturally suck on things as it is soothing, and their thumbs are no exception. In fact, many will suck their thumbs while they are still in the womb. Unfortunately, for some children, it becomes a habit that is ingrained into them, and they don’t stop, often sucking their thumbs while holding a security blanket or something else that they treasure. They tend to suck their thumbs when they are bored or uptight. If they don’t break the habit, it can lead to some serious dental issues.

At What Age does Thumb Sucking Stop?

In most cases, children will stop sucking their thumbs by the time they are four years old. Those who still suck their thumbs beyond this age will usually stop once they are in school and they get teased by their peers. But, even though a child has stopped, there is nothing to say that they won’t start again if something happens to make them anxious.

Should You Put a Stop to Thumb Sucking?

If your child does not yet have their permanent teeth, you don’t really need to worry about thumb sucking. Once the permanent teeth do come in, if they still continue with this habit, it can affect their palate, and the alignment of their teeth. If they are aggressive thumb suckers, the problems will be even worse. If your child is still sucking their thumb at age four or five, then it is time to step in and do something about it. You also need to intervene if their thumb sucking is causing problems with their teeth. It could even be that they may be embarrassed themselves, but don’t know how to stop. You can help. Here is a great orthodontics video provided by Dr. Minelle Tendler in Boca Raton on helping children break bad habits.

How Can You Help Your Child Stop?

There are a few ways you can deal with thumb sucking. The first is to completely ignore it. It could be that your child is trying to get attention, and will stop when they realize it isn’t working. You should also use positive reinforcement. Give praise, or offer prizes, such as an extended story time, when you notice that they aren’t sucking their thumb. You can also learn how to identify the things that trigger the thumb sucking. For instance, if you see that every time your child is stressed they start sucking their thumb, you can find ways to help them deal with their stress.

If the habit is so strong that your child sucks their thumb without even thinking about it, you can give them gentle reminders so they will stop. You can eve set up a special signal so you can remind them in public without embarrassing them. Using negative reinforcement rarely helps in any situation involving children. It is always best to offer encouragement and positive reinforcement. For instance, don’t coat your child’s thumbnail with something bitter or hot.

Should You Talk to Your Child’s Dentist?

If you think that your child’s thumb sucking habit may be affecting their teeth, talk to your dentist. Most dentists will sit down with children and talk to them about thumb sucking, and how it can damage their teeth. If the habit is really serious, the dentist may even recommend that the child wear a mouth guard or another type of dental appliance that keeps them from sucking their thumb.

Sometimes, there is nothing you can do to stop a child from sucking their thumb. In most cases, they will end up stopping on their own. You just need to be patient. If you pressure them, it may actually delay any progress.

Image Source: Gabriella

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