Jenison MI Pediatric Dentist

Help your kid stop thumb sucking.

Thumb sucking is a normal developmental behavior in young children. Some babies begin even before they are born! Non-nutritive sucking – both pacifiers and digits – are associated with their need for contact and security, and can help them self-soothe. However, oral habits may place pressure on the teeth and surrounding structures and can cause changes that persist after the habit stops. 

The longer a habit persists, the more likely it is to have long-term effects.  The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children stop sucking habits by the age of 3.  Before this age, changes are less likely to be permanent and make braces less likely.  By age 3, many children are also developmentally ready to drop the habit. 

A visit to Grand River Pediatric Dentistry can allow Dr. Christy and Dr. Meghan to assess whether your child’s habit is causing any teeth to shift or changes to their jaw.  They can also provide guidance on the best way to help your child.

The first thing to remember is that this very normal. Try to stay positive with your child – for example, it’s better to praise your kid when they don’t suck their thumb rather than focus on when they do.  Let your child overhear you talking about their successes with other people!  Encourage an alternative comfort item – work up to this new attachment over time, which can provide another source of soothing.  Limit the habit during the day at first – if your child really loves their thumb, start with just 30 minutes a day!  Provide distraction and give them something else to do with their hands.  Books are also great tools – there are some really amazing books that can open a discussion between you and your child.

For children that really love their thumb, it can be more challenging to stop the habit.  Often, the habit is subconscious and children need a gentle reminder – whether during the day or at night.  A band-Aid over their thumb, a mitten on their hand, or a bitter-tasting nail polish (like Mavala Stop) might be an easy reminder to stop sucking. Don’t forget to tell your child it’s not a punishment but an educational tool.