Tips to Prevent Children from Thumb Sucking

Many babies and children start sucking their thumbs during their first year and the behaviour naturally comes to a stop when they reach three to six years old. During early years, this habit is considered normal since it provides young ones of 6-12 months relief from tooth eruption pain. During the teething phase, some babies may be given teething rings or pacifiers. While tooth development varies among children, it can be expected that most of them will have their first set of milk teeth by the time they are three years old.

From birth to the teething stage, it is normal for babies to suck their thumbs. However, if you notice your child sucking their thumb well into elementary school, the habit could lead to possible dental and speech problems in the future.


To stop children from constantly sucking their thumb, here are tips on how to wean them from this habit:


Tips to Prevent Children from Thumb Sucking

1. Provide distractions and boundaries.

Notice when your child starts to suck on his/her thumb. Usually children do this to comfort themselves when they feel hungry, afraid, restless, sleepy, or bored. In rare cases, some children beyond five years old may suck on their thumb as a way to comfort themselves from anxiety. In these instances, a distraction may help. If they are hungry, provide healthy snacks they can chew on and provide activities that help them focus on hands (e.g. colouring books and puzzle games).

To gently prevent your child from thumb sucking, set boundaries where they can or cannot do this (for instance, ask your young one not to suck thumbs in public places and explain the habit could invite colds or bacteria).


Tips to Prevent Children from Thumb Sucking

2. Let them wear gloves or cover their thumbs when they sleep.

Most children may not be aware that they suck their thumbs while sleeping. To slowly wean your child from the unconscious habit, let them wear gloves with safe, fun decorations. Place these on their hands before they sleep.


Tips to Prevent Children from Thumb Sucking

3. Educate them on the effects of this habit.

Children who continue to suck thumbs beyond six years of age may start developing dental problems like improperly aligned teeth. This situation can later require orthodontic treatment (like braces) when kids are older. Speech problems may also occur (e.g. inability to say “t” and “d,” lisping, and thrusting out the tongue when talking) if they continue thumb sucking.

Tips to Prevent Children from Thumb Sucking

4. Provide positive reinforcement.

It takes time and effort to wean a child from this habit. To encourage your child, provide them with praise when they do not suck their thumb or provide them with a sticker chart to award good behaviour.

Thumb sucking is a natural reflex that most babies and children develop from birth — and usually stops on its own. However, prolonged thumbsucking can lead to dental and speech problems, hindering your child from enjoying meals or having a conversation. It is important to address the habit if it poses a threat to a child’s development.

Springdale Dental Centre in Brampton, Ontario offers children’s dentistry services to help them learn the importance of dental care. We also provide parents tips to support their family’s health. Please call us at (905) 458-1212 to schedule an appointment.



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