toddler's teeth

Thumb sucking is a normal form of self-soothing for children, similar to wanting a blanket or pacifier before bed. However, the American Dental Association notes thumb sucking usually ends between the ages of two to four. There are some repeat instances if a child is stressed or before bed. While thumb sucking is normal, it can cause dental issues if it continues past two to four years old. These issues include a misaligned bite, palate issues, speech problems, and an overbite. 

When to Help Your Child Stop Thumb Sucking

While each child is unique and has unique needs, it’s a good idea to wean them off of sucking their thumb by the age of five. Around this time, thumb sucking can lead to lifelong bite issues and dental alignment problems. If you notice alignment or dental changes in your child, schedule an appointment with your pediatric dentist. Catching dental problems early can significantly improve the appearance of your toddler’s teeth. 

How to Stop Thumb Sucking

Your child’s baby teeth can directly influence how well their adult teeth come in. It can also be an excellent opportunity to teach healthy lifelong dental habits. However, be aware that while weaning your child off of thumb sucking can help prevent dental issues, it’s best to wean them slowly and without punishment. Since thumb sucking can be tied directly to stress, causing a sense of shame around sucking their thumb can only prolong the weaning process.

Instead, try introducing a comforting alternative like a stuffed animal. You can reward your child for not sucking their thumb by offering healthy, sugar-free snacks. Remember, your child may not be aware they’re sucking their thumb. Be sure to be patient with them and use positive reinforcement to encourage change. You can also use a little bit of lemon juice on your child’s thumb to help discourage them from thumb sucking, but be sure to keep the amount of juice to a minimum, as citrus is acidic and can cause dental damage long term. 

Reward Good Dental Habits and Behavior 

Things like a sticker chart, rewards, and verbal praise can all go a long way toward breaking the thumb-sucking habit. You can also use more drastic measures, like keeping a sock on your child’s hand at night or putting a band-aid of their favorite character over their thumb. If you still have issues breaking the thumb-sucking habit and are worried about your toddler’s teeth, try consulting your dentist. They can offer you expert advice, bitter prescription medication, or a thumb-sucking guard to help ease your toddler away from sucking their thumb. 

Find a Pediatric Dentist Near You

Consider Around The World Pediatric Dentistry if you’re looking for a pediatric dentist near Stamford, CT. We have years of experience treating toddlers and children and encouraging healthy dental habits from a young age. Our practice serves residents of Greenwich, Norwalk, Stamford, Old Greenwich, Darien, Riverside, Cos Cob, and New Canaan. If you have questions about thumb sucking or concerns about your toddler’s baby teeth, call our office at (203) 489-2112 or set up an appointment online.

Continued Reading

Some continued reading for you from the AADP and ADA about your baby and toddler’s thumb sucking.