Thumb Sucking: How Can I Help My Child?

Thumb Sucking How Can I Help My ChildWhether you first saw him do it first in an ultrasound or now when he’s sleepy, thumb sucking can be one of the sweetest postures of a child. But when does it become a cause for concern for your child’s orthodontic development?

Our team at NoPo Kids Dentistry understands the struggle of helping your child break the thumb sucking habit and we are here to help you every step of the way. Let’s take a closer look at the issue and how it can be addressed.

Is thumb sucking a bad habit? When should I intervene?

The thumb sucking reflex is natural, and can sometimes be brought on by erupting primary teeth or simply as a comforting reflex for infants and young children.

The habit becomes an issue when the child’s permanent teeth start to come in as thumb sucking can greatly increase the risk of orthodontic issues and misalignment of the secondary teeth.

Most children stop sucking their thumbs between the ages of 2 and 4, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends intervention if a child continues the habit after the age of 5.

How can I help my child quit sucking his thumb?

There are multiple approaches to helping your child quit the habit of thumb sucking. You, the parent, will be the best judge as to which approach will work best for your child depending on his personality and motive, but we are happy to help provide suggestions.

  • Identify any triggers. Knowing the motive for the reflex is key to helping your child quit sucking his thumb. Try to remove any stressors that may be impacting your child. If you notice he starts to suck his thumb, ask him what is bothering him or how you can make him more comfortable. Often children suck their thumbs to soothe themselves. By finding the root cause, you can offer alternative solutions to help your child feel more comfortable.
  • Positive Reinforcement. Set short term, attainable goals and reward him when he reaches them. Whether it is not sucking his thumb before bed or going the entire day without thumb sucking, recognize the achievement and respond in a positive way.
  • Give kind, gentle reminders. If you notice your child start to suck his thumb, remind him about his goal and ask what you can do to help him. Often children don’t even realize they are doing it as it is a natural reflex, so bringing it to his attention can help him recognize when and why he is doing it.

As always, we are always here to help answer any questions you may have about your child’s dental care. We would be happy to talk with you and your child about the importance of stopping thumb-sucking before the permanent teeth erupt should you need assistance. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact us at NoPo Kids Dentistry today.

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