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February 8, 2021

Break the Habit: How to Stop Thumb-Sucking

Young boy at pediatric dentist in Northampton sucking thumb.Nothing is cuter than a sleeping baby sucking away on their thumb or a pacifier. Although they teach your child to self-soothe and regulate their emotions, thumb-sucking and pacifiers can leave a lasting mark on their smile. Your pediatric dentist in Northampton recommends breaking the habit early using a few simple tips during Children’s Dental Health Month.

What are the Risks of Thumb-Sucking?

Thumb and finger sucking are normal for infants and toddlers. Typically, they will outgrow it between 2 to 4 years of age. The American Dental Association recommends breaking this habit by the time they begin kindergarten to save their smile from significant complications, such as:

  • Misaligned bite
  • Palate issues
  • Speech problems
  • Overbite or overjet
  • Changes to the jaw and facial structure

Your child can also develop speech and language problems. In some cases, significant bite issues can also cause breathing concerns.

How Can I Help Stop Thumb-Sucking?

It’s best to break the sucking habit sooner rather than later to prevent causing complications to your child’s developing smile. If they continue to suck their thumbs and fingers after the adult teeth erupt, it can require significant orthodontic intervention to correct.

When you feel it is time to implement healthy behaviors, it’s important to keep the experience positive because stress and anxiety can contribute to thumb-sucking. Your pediatric dentist recommends using positive reinforcement and praise. You can help make the transition easier by following a few tips:

  • Introduce other coping mechanisms for stress, like holding a blanket or a stuffed animal.
  • Create a sticker chart as a reward for your child going a certain length of time without sucking their thumb.
  • Avoid situations that increase stress and anxiety.
  • Reinforce healthy behaviors.

If you are unable to stop your child from sucking their thumb, address your concerns with their pediatric dentist. Depending on your child’s age and the severity of the habit, they may recommend a special oral device for the next few months. It discourages your child from sticking their thumbs and fingers in their mouth while also protecting their teeth.

Is a Pacifier a Safer Solution?

Prolonged pacifier use is equally damaging as thumb-sucking. Thankfully, it’s usually easier to stop your child from using a pacifier than sucking their thumb. Some simple ways to help your child give up the pacifier are:

  • Cut the tip off the pacifier to change the sucking sensation.
  • Ask your child to donate their pacifier to a baby.
  • Take away the pacifier and replace it with another coping mechanism, like a favorite toy.

Invest in a Healthy Smile

Don’t let thumb-sucking harm your child’s developing smile. Encourage the right oral habits to ensure your child maintains healthy teeth and gums.

About Northampton Pediatric Dentistry

Northampton Pediatric Dentistry combines the experience and qualifications of 3 pediatric dentists to achieve healthy smiles for young patients. We focus on prevention to ensure optimal oral health. If you’re concerned about your child’s thumb-sucking habit, contact our office today. We’ll design a personalized solution to promote your child’s oral health and development.

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