Thumbsucking is a normal habit for infants. It provides comfort and can help young children sleep. However, as children get older, thumbsucking loses its normalcy and can actually be a source of suffering down the line.

Not only are school-aged thumbsuckers an easy target for teasing from other children, thumbsuckers can damage their teeth and cause an overbite. Breaking the thumbsucking habit early can mean the difference between an expensive corrective treatment like braces and normal development. Though most children stop sucking their thumbs by the time they go to preschool and before their permanent teeth grow in, some children continue to suck their thumbs into their school years. Some experts recommend correcting thumbsucking before a child turns 3, though the American Dental Association recommends breaking the habit after the child turns 4.

Little child sucking his thumb

Breaking the Habit

If you’re concerned your child will be teased for their thumbsucking, if their thumbsucking is affecting their teeth, or if their thumbsucking has continued past the age of 4, here are a few ways you can encourage your child to stop.

Praise Good Behavior

Excessive scolding can be a source of anxiety and stress for a child, which can lead the child to seek comforting habits and continue the habit. We recommend encouraging good behavior; praise your child when you notice they’re not sucking their thumb, or keep a calendar and add a star for every day your child abstains from sucking their thumb.

Cover the Hand at Night

If your child uses thumbsucking as a comforting method before bed, you can try putting a sock or oven mitt over their hand. This also acts as a reminder during the night for children who are committed to breaking the habit but can slip back into it while they sleep.

Bring in the Experts

Children like to be included in adult conversations, and bringing in an expert can help your child understand and allows them to accept more responsibility. Elite dentists Drs. Ken and Marnie Collins/about’}}}} are dedicated to family dentistry, and can help explain the impact thumbsucking can have on your child’s teeth. This is a great way to encourage your child to take charge of their health.

Use a Bad-Tasting, Safe Nail Polish

Certain clear nail polishes are made specifically to discourage nail biting and thumbsucking, and are safe to ingest but taste unpleasant. If your child’s thumbsucking is holding them back from making friends in school, or if it’s impacting their dental health, bad-tasting nail polish can be used as a last resort.

Dedicated and Passionate Family Dentists

If you have questions about your child’s dental health, or if you’re concerned about your child’s thumbsucking habits, you don’t have to worry alone. Though thumbsucking is a habit that typically goes away during childhood, severe thumbsucking can affect even permanent teeth.

To schedule a family dentistry appointment in Spokane Valley with Drs. Ken and Marnie Collins at Collins Dentistry & Aesthetics, please call (509) 927-2273 today.