Help, my child won't stop thumb sucking!

Help, my child won't stop thumb sucking!

Gentle thumb sucking may help babies feel safe and happy. However, persistent, vigorous thumb sucking can lead to dental problems. Here are some tips for helping your child stop sucking their thumb before dental issue develop.


Gentle thumb sucking may help a young child to soothe and relax themselves, or help them fall asleep. Nonetheless, it's important for parents to keep an eye on their child's thumb sucking since it may lead to some damaging effects on the child's developing teeth and mouth.

Vigorous and persistent thumb sucking could lead to: 

  • Open bite (top and bottom teeth don’t meet when the mouth is closed)
  • Overbite (front teeth protruding out from the jaw and mouth)
  • Bottom teeth tipping inward toward the back of the mouth
  • Changes to the shape of the jaw, affecting the alignment of the teeth, may lead to a lisp
  • Changes to the shape of the roof of the mouth, and sensitivity of the roof of the mouth

Many of these effects can be resolved or even avoided completely as long as the child stops thumb sucking before their permanent teeth come in. 

Tips For Helping Your Child Stop Thumb Sucking

It's not unusual for children stop thumb sucking on their own by the time they are 4 years old, but if your child needs some extra encouragement to give up thumb sucking here are a few helpful tips.

Stay Positive

Be sure to keep reinforcement positive. Avoid punishing, embarrassing or nagging at your child. 

Praise your child when you notice that they are not sucking their thumb.

You could try keeping a simple "thumbprint calendar" as a positive incentive. Dip your child's thumb into food dye and let them mark each 'thumb-free' day on their calendar.

Find a Stuffy to Love

Many children suck their thumb as a form of self-soothing. Transitioning your child from thumb sucking to holding another reassuring item may be helpful.

Providing your child with something soft like a small blanket, or stuffed animal to cuddle may provide the temporary comfort that your child is seeking. 

Keep Hands Busy

Boredom can trigger thumb sucking. If your child's hands are busy their thumb will likely stay away from their mouth. Try keeping your child busy with a selection of games, crafts or simply turning the pages of a story book.  

If you're concerned about the effects of thumb sucking on your child's developing mouth contact us to book an appointment. Our Langley children's dentists can help.

Download our FREE SmileTown Children's Activity Booklet.

This fun resource will help your kids get ready – and excited – about visiting the dentist.


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