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Thumb Sucking

Is Your Child a Thumb Sucker? What Can Be Done?

Thumb sucking can be a soothing habit, and it is perfectly natural for babies and young children to put their fingers or thumbs in their mouth. Many do so if they are tired, or feel anxious or just bored. Most children will stop sucking their thumb on their own, often while still a toddler.  The real problems can begin if the habit continues past this age, when their permanent teeth begin to erupt. This can lead to the permanent teeth being pushed out of alignment, and the upper front teeth can be pulled forward so they begin to protrude. It is even possible for the roof of their mouth to become malformed, which affects the way the upper and lower jaws bite together. So what can be done to persuade young children to stop thumb sucking?

Positive Reinforcement and Gentle Encouragement Works Best

The answer is quite a lot, but it is largely up to the child to make the decision to stop sucking their thumbs or fingers, backed up with gentle and positive reinforcement from family members. Thumb sucking is a habit that offers comfort and security, so it generally won’t work well if you try to scold a child or begin to nag them whenever they suck their thumb, and could even make the problem worse as they will be upset, and more likely to return to a habit that provides comfort.

Instead, offer lots of praise and rewards every time they manage to resist, especially if the child is quite young. It can be helpful to give them mittens to sleep in, or alternatively in the summer months to wrap their thumbs or fingers in band aids as this will give them a gentle reminder. Some parents or caregivers also find it helpful to paint the child’s fingers with that bitter tasting liquid used to stop nail biting. If you have an older child who is struggling to quit thumb sucking, then the habit might be due to stresses or anxieties, and it can be useful to try to find out the root cause of the problem. Solving it could help make it easier for your child to successfully give up thumb sucking. If they still have difficulty, then ask your pediatric dentist for help.

Appliances to Help Stop Thumb Sucking

If your child still finds it hard to stop sucking their thumb, then we can supply custom made dental appliances that make thumb sucking far less pleasurable. One such appliance is called a fixed palatal crib, and it consists of stainless steel bands that are attached to the child’s back teeth, and which support an arrangement of stainless steel wires that fit right behind the child’s upper front teeth. The device is virtually invisible and is very effective.

If your child’s teeth have already been pushed out of position by thumb sucking, then we can also offer expert orthodontic advice on how to correct them. Our orthodontist can fully assess the problems caused by thumb sucking, and will recommend a suitable treatment plan. Sometimes we will suggest early orthodontic treatment for a child, as this can often lessen problems in the future so overall treatment times are shorter.


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Kids Best Dentist Brooklyn NYC
Dr. Marina Krepkh
7708 4th Avenue 1st floor
Brooklyn, NY 11209 (Bay Ridge)
(718) 491-5300

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Patients are seen by appointment
Monday 10am – 8pm
Tuesday 11am – 5pm
Wednesday 2pm-7pm
Thursday 3pm-7pm
Friday 10am-4pm

Once a month on Saturday, call the office 718-491-5300 to find out which Saturday.