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As parents, we all want what’s best for our children and ensure they grow healthy and happy. However, sometimes our little ones develop habits we wish they wouldn’t, and thumb sucking is one of the most common habits.

While it may seem harmless and even cute, this habit can lead to dental issues that can affect your child’s teeth development and overall oral health in the long run. As parents, it’s our responsibility to understand the risks associated with thumb-sucking and how we can prevent any potential dental problems.

With the vast experience we have gained as a trusted child’s dentist in Woden, we are well-positioned to educate you about why children suck their thumbs, its effects on your child’s teeth, and how you can help your thumb sucking baby break the habit. 


Why do children suck their thumb?

While infants have a natural rooting instinct for feeding that could lead them to put their thumb in their mouth, most older babies suck their thumb as a way to self-soothe and calm themselves down. It possibly provides a sense of security and comfort, similar to how they would feel when held or cuddled by their parent or caregiver. This is a fairly normal development; in fact, some babies start sucking their thumb or finger in the womb!

importance breaking the habit suck thumb wodenThumb or finger sucking can be especially helpful for young children still learning to regulate their emotions and deal with stress or anxiety. A child’s thumb sucking has also been linked to the release of endorphins, which can create a sense of pleasure and relaxation for the child.

While it is a common habit for young children, it typically decreases as they get older and develop other coping mechanisms.

However, some children do not stop thumb sucking as they grow older; this is when you, as parents, and your child’s healthcare provider should step in to break the habit. 


Why is it important to stop thumb sucking?

While thumb sucking may seem harmless, it can have long-term effects on not just your child’s milk teeth but also their permanent teeth and jaw development.

According to the American Dental Association, children should stop thumb sucking by the age of four because they are at risk of developing the following: 



When children suck their thumbs, they apply pressure on their teeth, which can push them forward and change their alignment, resulting in the following types of malocclusion: 


An Overbite

The suction created by thumb sucking can alter the positioning of the teeth and jaw, causing the upper jaw to grow in a more forward direction. 


An Inward Crossbite

Pressure applied by thumb sucking can cause the lower front teeth to shift and move, tilting them into your child’s mouth. 



Unequal pressure applied on teeth can make them shift their position, resulting in overcrowding. 


Speech Problems

Malocclusion caused by thumb sucking can result in difficulty pronouncing certain sounds, such as “s” and “z.” Thumb sucking can cause the tongue to rest improperly, further contributing to speech problems. Research has shown that the longer a child sucks their thumb, the higher the likelihood of developing speech issues. 



How to help children stop sucking their thumb

Most children stop sucking their thumb between the ages of two and four on their own, well before their permanent teeth come in. However, some children need help breaking the habit, and as parents and child dental care providers, it is our responsibility to make sure they do so early so that not just their baby teeth but their adult teeth are also saved from the effects of thumb sucking.

You could try one or a combination of the following tips to break your child of their thumb sucking habit: 


Positive Reinforcement

Encourage your child to stop thumb sucking by rewarding them for their efforts. Praise and applaud them when they resist the urge to suck their thumb and offer small incentives such as stickers or treats. 


Distract and Replace

Provide your child with a variety of other activities to keep their hands busy and distract them from the urge to suck their thumb. Offer toys, puzzles, or other engaging activities that require the use of their hands. 


tips to stop kids thumb sucking wodenKeep Hands Busy

Help your child break the habit by keeping their hands busy with sensory toys and objects. Consider using fidget spinners, stress balls, or other tactile items to occupy their hands. 


Use Bitter-tasting Solution

Apply a bitter-tasting solution on your child’s thumb. This unpleasant taste will discourage them from sucking their thumb. 


Talk to Your Child

Discuss with your child the harmful effects of thumb sucking, such as potential dental problems and social stigma. Encourage them to take control of the habit and reinforce positive behaviours. 


Use Thumb Guards

Thumb guards are made of latex or silicone, designed to fit over a child’s thumb and prevent them from being able to suck their thumb. This creates a physical barrier that reminds the child not to engage in sucking. Band-aids can work in a pinch! 

It’s important to note that breaking the habit of thumb sucking does not happen overnight, but with consistent efforts and positive reinforcement, your child can overcome this habit and develop better oral health habits in the long run.


At Dental Excellence, we are dedicated to providing our young patients with superior dental care. Our team of experienced professionals is committed to working closely with parents to help break the habit of thumb sucking and promote healthy oral development in children.

With our gentle approach and effective techniques, you can be sure that your child will receive a high standard of care and support every step of the way.

Talk to us about helping your child break the habit of sucking their thumb. Call us on (02) 6188 7293 now




Source Links

How To Stop Thumb Sucking: Helping Your Child Break The Habit 

What to Know About Effects of Thumb Sucking on Teeth 



Dental Care for Children — Understanding Their Oral Health Needs
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