The Dangers of Thumbsucking

toddler holding a doll while sucking her thumb

Thumbsucking is a very common behavior in infants when they want their pacifiers, in anxious situations, and before bed. This reflex is learned while they are still in the womb, and typically continues in their infancy to early childhood stages. When babies suck their thumbs it is often a way for them to cope when they are separated from their parents. But, if your child’s thumbsucking carries on later into childhood, you may be wondering whether it is appropriate or not.

When Should Thumbsucking Stop?

The reflex of thumbsucking is normal during infancy, but most children tend to stop sucking their thumbs between the ages of two to three years old. The real problem of thumbsucking lies when the teeth start to grow in. This can lead to alignment problems because the thumb can push teeth in the wrong direction. Your child’s speech can also be affected, because they may develop a lisp or a kind of speech impediment. It is important to notice your child’s habits quickly so that you can work to reverse them.

How to Stop Thumbsucking

We know that thumbsucking often happens as a reflex when a child is nervous or anxious, so as a parent it is important to provide comfort to your child in these situations. Quitting thumbsucking cold turkey is nearly impossible, so slowly eliminating it is an easier way to go. Limiting thumbsucking to only bedtime and nap time can help to lessen the occasions that they may want to suck their thumb. When you notice that your child has been sucking their thumb less, reward them with something that they like so they learn that quitting this behavior results in positive rewards.

For some children, realizing the meaning behind an action can help them to do it more or do it less. In this case, explaining the negative effects of thumbsucking can help your child realize why it is bad for their oral health. Another effective method to stop this behavior is to distract your child with fun games and activities when you start to notice them sucking their thumb.

Understanding the Issue

If you start to notice this kind of behavior early on, understand that it is a very common habit that children partake in and isn’t always cause for immediate concern. If you start to notice that it is frequent and carrying on later into their childhood, action may need to be taken to address the issue.

After trying the above techniques to reduce thumbsucking, come into Kids Healthy Teeth to evaluate your child’s teeth! You can fill out our online contact form here.