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Thumb sucking is a common habit among children and can be difficult to break. Although it may provide some comfort for your child, it can lead to dental problems or speech difficulties in the future if left unchecked.

Fortunately, there are ways you can help your child kick this bad habit. With consistency and patience on your part, along with positive reinforcement and support from family members, you can help your little one break their thumb-sucking habit once and for all.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the do’s and don’ts for how to stop thumb-sucking, so you can put your mind at ease and help your child break this bad habit!


Understand why your child is thumb sucking

Thumb and finger-sucking are typically considered normal habits for most young children.

While it is an effective coping mechanism for them, helping them to soothe unmet needs or difficult feelings, such as anxiety, boredom or loneliness, thumb sucking can become a problem if it persists beyond the age where their permanent teeth grow in.

That’s why it’s important to understand what triggers thumb-sucking in your child and how you can help them break this habit in an appropriate and supportive way.

However, with patience and parental guidance, thumb-sucking can be managed and put to rest as children gain skills at self-calming techniques that are more suitable for their age.



How long does thumb sucking usually last?

While thumb-sucking duration can vary from child to child, the thumb-sucking habit typically begins during the first few months of life, when an infant begins to explore their environment and may find thumb-sucking to be soothing or comforting.

Most children stop sucking their thumb on their own around the age of 4 or 5; however, thumb sucking may continue beyond this age range if it is not addressed with gentle reminders and encouragement from parents.

To help support your child in stopping this habit, it is important to model positive coping strategies and provide lots of praise when they successfully resist the urge to suck their thumb.


How thumb-sucking affects upper and lower teeth

Thumb-sucking can lead to permanent changes in a child’s upper and lower permanent teeth.

An excessive habit of thumb-sucking can cause permanent teeth, also known as adult teeth, to be misaligned when they come in.

suck thumb affecting teeth wodenThis misalignment can be seen mostly in the upper jaw, where there is a greater frequency of results, such as an overbite or open bite.

Unfortunately, once permanent misalignments occur due to thumb-sucking, these problems will remain permanent unless intervened by a dentist.

Therefore, it is important for parents to stop their children from sucking on their thumbs in order to prevent permanent dental issues and help develop healthy habits into adulthood.


Set realistic goals for breaking the habit

When it comes to breaking a habit like thumb-sucking, it is important to set realistic goals that are achievable. Always remember that improvement takes time, and success will be slow but steady if the right strategies are in place.

Identifying positive incentives can help, such as picking a day of the week to make progress or rewarding yourself with something special when you meet shorter-term milestones.

It’s also important to realise that lapses along the way are all part of the journey and don’t mean you have failed. If you stay patient, persistent and consistent, you will eventually be able to stop thumb-sucking and feel proud of your accomplishment!


What you should do to stop a thumb-sucking habit

  • Encourage your child to find other outlets for their anxiety or boredom, such as fidget spinners, worry stones, etc.
  • Create a positive reinforcement system for when they do not suck their thumb, like stickers, extra screen time, or a small toy.
  • Redirect their attention away from the habit when you see your child sucking their thumb with the conversation, stories or other activities.
  • Gently remind them when they begin sucking their thumb.
  • Help your child develop healthy self-regulation habits like deep breathing and counting to ten before giving in to the urge to suck their thumb.
  • Utilising role-playing is a great way to help your child understand the concept of stopping thumb-sucking. Incorporate their favourite stuffed animal or toy into it, and pretend that Teddy wants to quit! Ask them if they can maybe be his guidance with suggestions on how he could succeed in this endeavour. Through this experience, you will not only give your little one an opportunity for creative expression but also promote positive behaviour change within themselves as well!


What you should not do to stop a thumb-sucking habit

  • Do not punish or shame your child for sucking their thumb.
  • Do not leave your child alone, and expect them to stop on their own.
  • Do not rely too heavily on bitter-tasting solutions like nail polish as a deterrent. They may work in the short term but may not be effective in the long term.
  • Do not give up if your child returns to thumb-sucking; be persistent and consistent with your approach.

Breaking a thumb-sucking habit can take some time, but with patience, understanding and the right strategies in place, you can help your child kick this bad habit forever.


Additional tips

Are you at a loss for what to do when it comes to your child’s thumb-sucking habits? If so, why not consider a different approach?

Some children have expressed an interest in quitting and just require some extra assistance – that’s where physical interventions come into play! As a reminder and prompt, these can really make the difference between success and failure.

For those attempting to break the habit of thumb-sucking, there are a variety of strategies that can be employed.

Putting mittens or socks on their hands at bedtime, dressing them in shirts with sleeves sewn closed, or using bandages and plastic guards over thumbs/fingers may all help put an end to this behaviour.

It is essential to maintain a positive attitude. Although some parents may use negative approaches in an effort to break the habit, it’s important to remain optimistic.

Additionally, bear in mind that you understand your child best. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box as far as aiding them in breaking their thumb-sucking habit is concerned.

Some parents have found success when transitioning from sucking their thumbs with other calming activities, such as rubbing their back, massage therapy, or simply listening to some tunes!


Seek a dentist’s help!

Taking the steps to improve your child’s dental health shouldn’t be taken lightly. Thumb sucking could have major effects on their teeth line, making it more important than ever to seek a dentist’s help.

seek kids dentist help sucking thumb wodenWithout proper care, dental issues that arise as a result of thumb sucking can worsen over time.

If you’re concerned about your child and the effects of prolonged thumb sucking, talking with a professional can go a long way in helping you understand the problem and providing better treatment options.

When seeking the help of a dentist, it’s important to ensure they specialise in child dentistry and can take into account all potential child-specific problems, such as tooth decay or shifting teeth caused by thumb sucking.



To help your child break the thumb-sucking habit, it is important to understand why they are doing it in the first place and set realistic goals for them.

Utilising positive reinforcement strategies, such as incentives or redirecting their attention, can be helpful.

Additionally, you should avoid punishing or shaming your child if they lapse back into old habits while working towards breaking this bad habit.

If you’re concerned about potential dental issues to your child’s teeth due to prolonged thumb sucking, or your child is five or older and still sucking their thumb, make sure to contact Dental Excellence on (02) 6188 7293 and get an expert consultation about the next steps you should take.

Our expert dental team can offer advice on how to address the issue, as well as assess your child’s unique situation. With patience and dedication on both of your parts, you’ll eventually be able to help your little one stop thumb-sucking successfully for good!





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