Tips to Wean Children Off Thumb Sucking Habit

Thumb sucking may be adorable, but is it harmful to a child’s oral health?

It’s safe—but only to a point. That point arises when permanent teeth begin to come in. Thumb sucking then may cause improper growth of the mouth and misalignment of teeth. Children generally stop this very common habit on their own between the ages of 2 and 4. But sometimes they continue the practice into the danger zone.

When a child continues to suck his or her thumb and it becomes a threat to mouth health, what can parents do to correct the behavior? Here are some suggestions from the American Dental Association, which has resources on how to deal with children’s thumb sucking on its consumer website

  • praise your child for not sucking;
  • children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure or needing comfort. Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety and provide comfort to your child;
  • for an older child, involve him or her in choosing the method of stopping;
  • your dentist can offer encouragement to your child and explain what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop sucking.

For more information on thumb sucking, including how pacifiers can have similar harmful effects after a certain point, visit the American Dental Association consumer website

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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