3 Tips To Help Your Child Stop Thumb Sucking

Posted on: 10 August 2015

If your child sucks his thumb, you may be concerned about how it's going to affect his oral development. It's important to schedule regular visits for your child at a pediatric dental clinic to ensure he's not showing signs of tooth decay and to monitor his overall oral health. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that thumb sucking isn't usually a problem unless the child is older than five or if it's affecting your child's teeth. Your child's dentist can let you know if he thinks your child's thumb sucking is affecting his teeth and give you strategies to help your child stop the behavior to prevent problems with his palate and teeth alignment. 

In addition to the ideas provided by your child's dentist, try these tips for helping your child give up his thumb.

  • Have a talk about it. Sit your child down and talk about his thumb sucking. Ask him if he knows why he does it and how he feels when he's sucking his thumb, but don't expect thorough answers if your child is still quite young. Discuss the possibility of further dental treatment your child may need if he continues to suck his thumb, but don't threaten him or make things like visiting the dentist or getting orthodontic treatment sound scary or like a punishment -- after all, he may need braces at some point, even if he stops sucking his thumb tomorrow. Just let him know you want to help him keep his mouth and teeth as healthy as possible and to do that, you want to help him stop sucking his thumb.
  • Help your child develop healthy coping strategies. Children often suck their thumbs for comfort when they're afraid, stressed or upset. Sit down with your child and brainstorm a list of things that will help him feel comforted when he needs it. This list can include things you can do, such as sing a song or give extra cuddle time, and things he can do himself, such as hug a favorite stuffed toy or curl up in a quiet place with a book.
  • Give positive reinforce to your child when he doesn't suck his thumb. Try to refrain from scolding your child when he sucks his thumb. Instead, try praising him when you notice he isn't sucking his thumb at times he would otherwise be doing so. You can even incorporate a rewards system with stickers or small prizes when he meets certain milestones, such as not sucking his thumb for an entire day.

Don't expect overnight results. It may take several weeks or months for your child to stop sucking his thumb. If you're noticing he's sucking it less, you're doing a good job. Talk to your child's dentist about other options, such as a mouth appliance to prevent sucking, if nothing else seems to work.

For more information, contact a pediatric dentist like those at http://www.childrensdent.com.