Grand Rapids Pediatric Dentists

While thumb sucking is a normal habit for many young children, the long-term effects of persistent thumb or finger sucking can be detrimental to your child’s overall oral heath and tooth development. Just as there is a natural time to put away the pacifier, you will also reach a time when thumb sucking must be discouraged and eliminated.

Below are some simple steps you can take to help your child overcome this habit:

  1. Always stay supportive and positive. Instead of punishing your child for thumb sucking, give praise when he doesn't suck. This will encourage him to stick with it!
  2. If your child is ready, you can try ‘reminders’ such as a bandage or tape on the finger or thumb or a sock over the hands during sleep. Let him know that this is not a punishment, just a way to help him remember to avoid sucking.
  3. Use a calendar as a reward chart and let him put a sticker up every day that he doesn't suck his thumb. If he makes it through a week without sucking, he gets to choose a small prize. When he has filled up a whole month, reward him with something great and by then the habit should be over. Making your child an active participant in the treatment will increase his enthusiasm to break the habit.
  4. If you notice your child sucking when he's anxious, work on easing his anxiety rather than focusing on the habit.
  5. Take note of the times your child tends to suck, such as while watching TV or going on long rides in the car and create diversions during these occasions.
  6. Explain clearly and show examples of what might happen to the teeth if your child continues the thumb or finger sucking.

Whatever your method, always remember that your child needs your support and understanding during the process of breaking the habit. If your child is emotionally ready and they simply cannot stop, make a visit to discuss thumb habit appliance options with Dr. Meggan as a last resort.

For more information about helping your child stop thumb sucking, or to schedule an appointment, please contact us today or call us during normal business hours at 616.988.9485.