For children, thumbsucking is natural. It helps them feel secure. It soothes children as they fall asleep. Some researchers even suggest that children who suck their thumbs develop fewer allergic reactions as they mature.
Thumbsucking typically begins in the womb, but at a certain point, we expect children to stop sucking their thumbs. The American Dental Association (ADA) says that most children stop sucking their thumbs between the ages of two and four years old, but definitely by the time their permanent teeth begin to erupt. If thumbsucking continues past that point, it contributes to crooked teeth that later require adjustment. Depending on the intensity, the roof of their mouth might also be adversely affected by the habit.
Breaking the Habit
If thumbsucking continues beyond seven or eight years of age (when primary teeth start to come in), it’s best to help your child grow out of the practice. Here are a few of many ideas to help your child break the habit:
- Positive reinforcement – praise and reward them for not sucking their thumb
- If they use the practice to relieve anxiety, focus on addressing the source, not the symptom
- Involve them in the process – let them choose methods that will help them stop
- Ask your dentist or medical professional to help explain to your child what might happen if they persist
- Utilize bad tasting liquids or coverings to discourage the habit
A word of caution on that last one. If you want to try anti-thumbsucking liquids or other deterrents, try them on yourself first, so you know what your child will experience. If it’s too much for you, it’s likely too much for them as well.
The Yuba City Dentistry Group is happy to help explain thumbsucking to your child, praise them for stopping the practice, and encourage them to avoid it. The ADA recommends you start your child on routine dental checkups 6 months after their first tooth emerges. That means we should already have a good friendship with your child by the time they’re ready to stop sucking their thumbs. If your child is of age and doesn’t have an appointment with the Yuba City Dentistry Group, you can easily set one up by calling our office or scheduling an appointment online. We’re happy to help your child move on from thumbsucking while we make sure they develop the best smile possible with a healthy set of teeth.