Thumb Sucking

Changing Behavior Requires Sensitive Touch

Thumb sucking is a common coping behavior for infants. It provides them with comfort and reassurance. Most children grow out of the habit by age 4 as they find new ways to relax and cope with distress. You do not need to take drastic action if your child is sucking their thumb, but if it continues by the time their teeth start coming in, it is probably time to take moderate steps to stop it.

Thumb sucking can shift teeth out of alignment and cause them to grow incorrectly. Baby teeth serve as the template for permanent teeth, meaning a skewed baby tooth will most likely result in a skewed permanent tooth. This leads to a misaligned bite which will have to be corrected with braces.

HOW TO STOP THUMB SUCKING

If you think your child is sucking their thumb too much, you should speak with a BDC dentist. Thumb sucking is usually harmless and can be helpful for many infants. If it reaches a point where it needs to be addressed, it is important to take a sensitive approach. You don’t want to abruptly take away a child’s coping mechanism. Our pediatric dentists can provide you with some tips for stopping thumb sucking.

Here are some ideas for stopping thumb sucking when your child’s teeth start coming in:

  • Reward them for not sucking their thumb, rather than punishing them for doing it.
  • Give them an incentive for not sucking their thumb – promise them a treat if they can go a whole month without sucking their thumb.
  • Put a band-aid over your child’s thumb at night so they don’t rely on sucking to fall asleep.
  • Watch for thumb sucking triggers –watching TV, long car rides, distress – and then provide a distraction so your child doesn’t suck their thumbs during these moments.
  • Try telling them that thumb sucking will hurt their teeth over time. You may want to have a dentist present for this conversation.

It’s important to be supportive and understanding during this process. Thumb sucking is a comforting habit for children, removing it abruptly can be difficult for them.

Call (406) 412-6365 to schedule an appointment with our pediatric dentists for a professional assessment of whether or not your child needs to stop thumb sucking.

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