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Thumb sucking habits

Thumb sucking or finger sucking is a tough habit to break, ultimately because it is soothing and brings great comfort to your child. Fingers and thumbs are attached to the body and readily available at all times complicating the cessation of the habit. The intensity, frequency and duration of the habit determines whether or not the development of the teeth and jaws will be affected. The time to really make sure your child stops this habit is when the permanent front teeth start to come in. This is usually around age 6 or 7. If the habit is not stopped during this time, several problems can result. The permanent teeth may not fully grow in resulting in an openbite, where the upper and lower teeth do not touch. The upper teeth may become protruded, the lower teeth may lean in towards the tongue and the upper jaw can be narrowed. There are many at home remedies, but first things first, your child MUST be willing to stop. Otherwise, it will be a battle you will not win and it will become a very stressful time for both you and your child. My favorite motivator is reading the book “David Decides: No More Thumbsucking” by Susan Heitler. Once your child is mentally ready to stop then you can move on to helping them. Mavala stop is a non-toxic nail polish you can brush on fingernails that works by giving a bitter taste when the thumb is inserted into the mouth. Another simple remedy is putting socks over their hands and pin them to the pajama sleeves at bedtime. Band-Aids on the culprit thumb or finger is another quick and easy way to remind your child to not put their finger or thumb in their mouth. Always give lots of praise for every day your child stops the habit. Be patient, it takes 21 days before a broken habit will remain broken. If you can’t stop it on your own, having an orthodontist intervene is the next step. An orthodontist can come up with a positive reinforcement plan to break the habit or use an appliance cemented to the teeth for the duration of the habit. If it is stressing you and your child out, let a professional help you.

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