How to Put an End to Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking may seem harmless, but it can cause significant issues for your child’s teeth. As your little one sucks his or her thumb, it places pressure on the upper palate and front teeth. This pressure can be especially detrimental as your little one’s palate is developing. In addition, although thumb sucking has the most negative impact on permanent teeth, its effects on primary teeth can also be alarming, since the primary teeth serve as placeholders for the permanent teeth that will eventually erupt.

Over time, if thumb sucking is allowed to continue, it can cause a child’s upper palate to narrow. When this occurs, the side teeth of the top and bottom palates fail to meet when the child’s mouth is closed. In addition, sucking a thumb can encourage the top front teeth to buck forward and develop an interdental gap.

The alignment and bite issues associated with thumb sucking may be corrected through orthodontic applications, such as conventional braces. However, the issues could be avoided if thumb sucking is stopped early enough. Here are a few measures you can take to put an end to your child’s thumb sucking.

Provide small toys to occupy little hands.

As long as your little one’s hands are busy exploring and playing, his or her thumbs are unavailable for sucking. Small toys and interesting objects with various shapes and textures can be fun to touch. Keep items handy and offer them to your child any time you notice the youngster sucking a thumb.

Offer the little one sugarless gum or a healthy snack.

When a child sucks a thumb, the thumb is generally the sole object in the child’s mouth. By giving your child a healthy substance to occupy the oral cavity, you can eliminate a thumb-sucking opportunity.

Sugarless gum and healthy raw fruits and veggies can promote good oral health. As your child chews gum, the sticky substance can help cleanse food particles and plaque from the teeth. Likewise, the fibrous consistency of raw fruits and vegetables also scrapes debris from the teeth.

Minimize your child’s stress.

Children often suck their thumbs during periods of stress. The sucking soothes a child, helping him or her cope with the uncertainty of a stressful situation. Minimizing your child’s stress can help diminish the desire for thumb-sucking.

To help alleviate your little one’s stress, try to keep your child’s schedule as consistent as possible. In addition, prepare your child for new experiences by discussing upcoming plans beforehand. If your child has a favorite stuffed animal or toy, allow the youngster to take the item along on outings to help the child feel less insecure during periods of uncertainty. Also, be sure that your little one gets adequate amounts of rest.

Praise your child.

If your child is like most little ones, he or she responds well to praise. Instead of scolding your child for thumb sucking, offer praise whenever the youngster refrains from the practice. Your child’s desire to please you can motivate the youngster to overcome the thumb-sucking habit.

Coat your child’s thumb with an unsavory substance.

To discourage your child from placing a thumb in his or her mouth, consider coating the little one’s thumb with a distasteful substance, such as vinegar. The child will be unable to engage in thumb sucking without tasting the unsavory coating. If you are unsure about what type of substance to apply to your child’s thumb, you can purchase an over-the-counter coating designed to discourage the habit. Commercial products are generally non-toxic and bitter-tasting.  

Place a glove over your little one’s hand as he or she sleeps.

Many children suck their thumbs while they sleep. To help diminish your child’s dependence on thumb sucking, place a glove over the child’s hand during periods of rest. The child is unlikely to suck on a fabric-covered thumb.

It is important to encourage your child to stop sucking their thumbs before their permanent teeth start to present. However, the earlier that thumb sucking is stopped, the better your child’s chances of avoiding negative repercussions from the practice.

To learn more ways to put an end to thumb sucking, contact our office to schedule an appointment.