Howard Posner, DDS | Pediatric Dentist
Marc Henderson, DDS, FAGD | General Dentist
Matthew T. Goslee, DMD, MPH | Pediatric Dentist

255 North Main Street
Bristol, CT 06010

860-589-7170

Thumb-sucking

There are many children that find thumb-sucking to be a very comforting act. It is estimated that about 75% to 95% of infants suck their thumbs, so you are not alone if your child starts sucking his or her thumb. In the majority of cases, you do not have anything to worry about if your child is sucking his or her thumb. When your child is sucking his or her thumb, you should watch the behavior to see if the thumb-sucking as the potential to affect your child’s oral health.

What Is Normal Thumb-Sucking Behavior?

Many children start sucking their thumb at a very young age and some even start sucking their thumb inside the womb. Sucking their thumb can provide a sense of security and contentment for a children. Some children find thumb sucking to be relaxing and suck their thumb when they fall asleep.

The majority of children will stop sucking their thumb on their own between the ages of two and four. The American Dental Association has released a study showing that most children stop sucking their thumb when the habit is no longer useful to them. If your child is still sucking his or her thumb when their permanent teeth start to erupt, you may want to take action to break the habit.

What Signs Should I Watch For?

First, you should watch how your child is sucking his or her thumb. If your child is sucking passively, with his or her thumb resting gently in the mouth, it is less likely that the habit will cause problems. If your child is an aggressive thumb-sucker and he or she is placing pressure on the mouth of teeth when sucking, the habit may cause dental problems. Continuing this habit for an extended amount of time can cause problems with the way that the teeth grow in and even with the shape of your child’s face.

If you are worried about your child’s thumb-sucking habits, call us and make an appointment for a consultation. We can help you understand what is going on in your child’s mouth and what you can do to fix it. 

How Can I Help My Child Quit Thumb-Sucking?

If your child needs help breaking this habit, these are some ways you can help your child quit:

1. Make sure that you are positive in your approach. Instead of punishing for thumb-sucking take time to praise when your child is not sucking his or her thumb.

2. If your child sucks his or her thumb before going to bed, put a bandage on the thumb or even a suck over his or her hand. Try to make this a positive experience rather than making it feel like a punishment.

3. Mark the progress that your child is making. Set positive goals and make sure that you find a rewardyou’re your child when he or she accomplishes these goals. Making sure that your child is on board and excited about stopping the habit will help you be more successful..

4. If your child sucks his or her thumb when feeling anxiety, try to find a way to lessen the anxiety, rather than focusing on the thumb-sucking.

5. Pay attention to the times that your child is sucking his or her thumb, and then, try to replace thumb sucking with an activity that he or she will enjoy.

6. Gently explain exactly what could happen to his or her jaw and teeth if the sucking continues.

No matter how you help your child stop this habit, make sure that you are supportive and understanding with your child. This way, when you break the habit, it will be a permanent fix.

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