When Should My Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb?

Babies and young children use thumb sucking as a way to soothe themselves.  Some babies start sucking their thumb before they are even born.  Babies may use thumb sucking, or finger sucking, as a coping mechanism when they are tired, hungry or stressed.  As the child grows older and their speech develops they find other ways to soothe themselves and naturally stop sucking their thumb.  In some children thumb sucking becomes a habit which can be difficult to stop and may require intervention by their parents.

What Age Should My Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb?

Most children stop sucking their thumb on their own between two and four years of age.  Children who continue beyond four or five years of age may need a little help stopping the habit.  Children who aggressively such their thumb are more at risk of long term problems than children who gently rest their thumb in their mouth.  Children need to stop sucking their thumb or pacifier by the time their adult teeth start coming through, which is around six years of age.

What Are The Effects Of Thumb Sucking?

Some of the long term effects of thumb sucking beyond five or six years of age include:

  • The teeth and jaws may not be properly aligned.  This is called a malocclusion.  The thumb puts pressure on the roof of the mouth, which can cause the upper jaw to become v-shaped.  The pressure of the thumb on the upper incisors can cause them protrude, causing the child to have an open bite.  An open bite is when the upper and lower front teeth don’t meet when the child closes their mouth.  Treatment by an orthodontist may be required.
  • Crowded teeth.  As thumb sucking can alter the shape of the jaws and put pressure on the permanent teeth as they are erupting, the teeth may become crowded.
  • Speech problems.  Children may develop speech problems, such as a lisp, from thumb or finger sucking.  Treatment by a speech therapist may be necessary for some children.
  • Low self esteem.  Children are often picked on for their thumb sicking habit.  This can have a long term effect on their self esteem.  Children can become embarrassed of their thumb sucking habit and may need help from their parents to stop.

How Can I Stop My Child From Sucking Their Thumb?

  • Thumb SuckingGently remind your child not to suck their thumb.  Often children don’t realise they are doing it and just need to be reminded to stop.  Positive reinforcement is usually the most effective way of helping your child stop thumb sucking.  Don’t criticise or embarrass your child about their thumb sucking habit.  Instead, offer a reward to your child for not sucking their thumb.  Have a calendar on the wall and add stickers when your child hasn’t sucked their thumb.  After a certain number of days, reward your child with a special trip somewhere or a new toy.
  • Offer a distraction when your child is sucking their thumb.  Some children only suck their thumb at certain times.  Take note of when your child sucks their thumb.  If they only do it when going to sleep, give them a stuffed toy to squeeze instead.  If your child tends to suck their thumb when they are stressed, give them a cuddle instead.  Offering an alternative to sucking their thumb may help them stop the habit.
  • Book an appointment with the dentist.  A dentist can assess whether thumb sucking is causing any damage to your child’s teeth.  A chat with a friendly family dentist about why it’s important to stop sucking their thumb may be an effective way of getting your child to stop.
  • Put Band-Aids on your child’s thumbs.  Band-Aids or gloves on your child’s hands can serve as a reminder for them to not suck their thumb.
  • Ignore their thumb sucking.  Simply ignoring their thumb sucking is enough for some children to stop doing it.  This is effective for children who are using thumb sucking to get attention.

Conclusion

To avoid any long-term effects from thumb sucking, children need to stop this habit before their adult teeth start to come through.  This helps to prevent future problems such as crooked teeth, open bite and speech problems.  Helping your child stop sucking their thumb takes patience, but it is well worth the time and dedication to help your child avoid long term problems.

 

 

 

Disclaimer

Any information provided here is for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute advice from a qualified dental professional. Only qualified dental professionals can provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment based on your specific condition. No warranty is made with the information provided here.

Comments

  1. I used to suck my thumb when i was luttle and i regret every second of it! Now i have braces and they hurt so bad. So whoever is reading this dont let anyone suck their thumd because they will need braces and they are outrageously terrible and aleays mKe your mouth gurt and sometimes you cant eat anything because there are not amny thinfs you can eat.

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