6 Ways to Stop Thumb Sucking

Experts say that thumb sucking is a natural instinct for infants and young babies. That’s why you can even see unborn babies sucking their thumbs in ultrasounds. In addition to it being a way to self-calm, infants do it to activate salivation – which settles upset stomachs – and toddlers do it to soothe sore gums during teething. But once a child has teeth, thumb sucking can be problematic: the motion and pressure of the thumb on the teeth can cause them to shift forward, giving them a buck appearance. But how can you convince a toddler to give up a bad habit when it’s hard enough for adults?

thumb sucking 300x199 6 Ways to Stop Thumb Sucking Photo

Thumb sucking can cause a child’s teeth to shift out of position.

Try these 6 ways to stop thumb sucking:

  • Don’t yell or punish your child. Since thumb sucking is usually done to self-calm, being punished will only increase her stress level and make the problem worse.
  • Reward system. Tell your child that, for each day you don’t see her suck her thumb, you’ll put a smiley face on the calendar. Start small, then build up. Give her a small treat if she goes one day, then three, then a bigger treat for going a full week. Even if this means she only sucks her thumb when you’re not around, it’s still a step towards controlling the habit.
  • Reminder fluid. By putting a foul tasting liquid on your child’s hand, she may be less inclined to want to put her thumb in her mouth. This should never be used as a punishment, but rather as a reminder of her goal.
  • Pay attention to the trigger. If you notice that she sucks her thumb when she’s tired or right before bed, give her a large teddy bear to hug while she sleeps to keep her hands busy.
  • Be upfront. Children won’t stop just because their parents want them to. But if you explain to her that thumb sucking is bad for her teeth and show her in the mirror how her teeth can move forward, she may be motivated to stop on her own.
  • Give it time. Most children grow out of thumb sucking, usually stopping at age six or seven because of teasing from peers.

To find out how much damage thumb sucking is doing to your child’s teeth, choose a trusted pediatric dentist near you.

Sources: parenting.com and health.howstuffworks.com