St. Anthony Village Dentistry
Dr. Nicole Hoiland

Here at St. Anthony Village Dentistry, our team is committed to making sure your dental experience is affordable, comfortable, and personalized. We offer state-of-the-art services with clinical excellence.
We look forward to providing you and your family with the dental excellence you deserve.

My child sucks his thumb. What should I do?

Thumb sucking is a common problem parents encounter with their young children. Thumb or finger sucking may be caused by boredom, being tired, or a child trying to calm or comfort themselves in an anxious circumstance. It is a natural reflex as it’s how we first learn about the world around us. A thumb, finger or other items sometimes serve as pacifiers which can result in some real problems in a child’s oral development if left unchecked.

Experts generally agree that a thumb-sucker younger than 3-4 years old needn’t be pressed to stop. Most children will give up the habit on their own before they begin kindergarten. In the case of a thumb or finger sucker being 3 years old or older, it is then time to break the habit. What makes this such a bad habit?  Teeth are pushed forward and result in permanent changes to jaw shape, bite, and teeth alignment. It can even cause changes to the roof of the mouth. Braces may become necessary, teasing from peers may occur, and even speech can be affected which may require speech therapy to correct problems.

 

Depending on how prevalent the thumb-sucking is a variety of solutions may be effective. In some milder cases diverting your child’s attention, positive reinforcement such as using a sticker chart and positive reward system and praising when the child is not sucking, or talking to the child and explaining why it is such a bad habit may be all it takes to correct the problem.  Avoiding scolding and focusing on patience and praising a child who not sucking will be more likely to help a child in correcting the behavior.

 

With more tenacious thumb-sucking behaviors, there are other avenues which may be just what is needed to extinguish the problem behavior. An item known as Chewelry, which costs around $10 can be found on Amazon. It is a jewelry the child can safely chew on as a substitute for oral sensory input without damaging teeth. The use of finger tape, or socks, gloves, may be attached with safety clips is thought to be one of the most effective methods of fighting the thumb-sucking habit. These products create a barrier to putting one’s thumb or fingers in the mouth. There are also bitter tasting but harmless pure vegetable products which act as an immediate reminder whenever a finger or thumb goes into the mouth. You just paint it on fingertips or thumbs. In extreme cases, switching to a couple of these products may be necessary if the child becomes accustomed to the taste. A mouth appliance is another possibility to squelch this habit.

 

Thumb or finger sucking can be serious if ignored and have long-lasting repercussions. We strongly encourage parents to make regular dental visits so the dentist can check on a child’s dental development and correct behaviors like thumb-sucking before they become bigger problems. We can help you find the right solution for your child. Call 612-781-9270; we look forward to providing you and your whole family with the best dental care available!