how to help your child stop thumb sucking

stop-thumb-suckingThumb sucking is completely normal for infants and young children. This natural reflex to suck on a thumb, pacifier, fingers, teething toys, or other objects gives babies a sense of security and happiness, while helping them learn about the world around them. For young children, thumb sucking is soothing and gives a sense of comfort and security. However, thumb sucking after a certain age can cause dental problems that can be quite costly to fix later in life. Here is what you need to know about thumb sucking, and what you can do to help your child break the habit.

When should my child stop sucking their thumb?

Typically children stop thumb sucking between the ages of two and four, and the American Academy of Pediatrics does not suggest treatment for the habit until after a child’s fifth birthday. This is because after permanent teeth begin to come in — usually around five years of age — this seemingly harmless habit can cause serious dental problems including misalignment of teeth, jaw misalignment, malformation of the roof of the mouth, and issues with pronunciation.

Dental issues caused by thumb sucking vary based on the intensity, duration, and frequency of the habit. If your child is simply resting their thumb in their mouth, it will most likely not be an issue. However, when children aggressively suck their thumb, it can lead to many of the above-detailed dental problems, and can even cause issues with baby teeth.

How to get your child to stop thumb sucking

Trying to break your child of the thumb sucking habit can be frustrating, but it isn’t impossible. Below are a few of the most effective methods you can use to help your child stop sucking their thumb.

Use positive reinforcement

Since children often suck their thumbs when they are stressed or anxious, it is important to focus on positive reinforcement instead of scolding, which can cause them to revert back to the habit. We suggest praising your child for not thumb sucking and coming up with a fun rewards system, like a progress chart with stickers and prizes.

Identify the root of the problem

For many children thumb sucking is rooted in anxiety or stress. By working with your child to identify what may be causing their insecurity, you can work towards breaking this coping mechanism. Giving your child a beloved stuffed animal or toy to squeeze when they are feeling anxious can also help curb the habit.

Consult with your pediatric dentist

If you have been trying to help your child stop thumb sucking with no luck, it may be time to consult with your pediatric dentist. Your child’s dentist will be able to talk to them about why it is important for them to stop sucking their thumb and may also recommend a device that can be used to help with the process.

Be Patient

When it comes to helping your child stop thumb sucking, patience is key. In fact, pressuring your child and worrying can actually slow down the process even more. Instead, try not to worry and focus on using positive reinforcement until the habit is just a distant memory.

Meanwhile, if you are looking for a children’s dentist in Chattanooga, our team is here to offer any guidance or advice you may need in the process.

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