Suggestions for Breaking a Thumb or Finger Sucking Habit

Suggestions for Breaking a Thumb or Finger Sucking Habit

Orthodontists know only too well the adverse consequences of thumb and finger sucking in children. A whole host of issues can arise that may involve lengthy and costly orthodontic treatment. Early intervention, not long after the age of three, is advisable to avoid potential orthodontic intervention.

Once a child has permanent teeth, they can be affected by the constant pressure of thumb-sucking, especially the ones in front. The teeth can become misaligned or pushed forward and out. The tongue may begin to thrust out or stay pressed down in an unnatural position. Speech can be affected. 

The complications of thumb and finger sucking often depend on the frequency of sucking activity, the number of years the activity has gone on, and the forcefulness of the sucking motion.

Have A Conversation About It

Start with talking to your child about thumb or finger sucking and why it is a bad habit. Talking alone may not break the practice, but it can help the child decide that to quit or prepare to quit. Supplying positive motivation to quit is significant, so explain to your child how thumb sucking can affect their jaws and teeth. Let them know what may be in store down the road. Encourage them to perform another activity when they have the urge to put their thumb or fingers in their mouth.

Watch for Thumb-Sucking Patterns

If watching TV and sleeping are two times when your child typically falls back into their sucking habits, identifying the patterns can help you devise a quitting plan that focuses specifically on these times. If bedtime is a problem, try putting socks on their hands before bed. If TV time is a problem, try negative reinforcement by turning off the TV for 5 or 10 minutes every time your child reverts to the sucking activity.

Offer A Stress-Relieving Substitute

Stress or upset may very well be a trigger for thumb and finger sucking. Thumb sucking is typically an effort to self-soothe and may increase when your child is stressed. Try to determine what is causing the child to be stressed. Invest quality time in your child by calming, cuddling, or speaking comforting words. In addition, a stuffed animal or other emotional support items can be offered as a trade-off for finger sucking.

Don’t Give Up, Get Help

An orthodontist can talk to your child about the adverse effects of thumb and finger sicking. They can share with them how it can affect their teeth and bite. A healthcare professional may have more of an impact on them. If none of the other interventions help, an orthodontist can fit your child with a special mouth guard to help prevent finger and thumb sucking.

Lastly, if your child is a finger or thumb sucker, you may be well-advised to have them evaluated by an orthodontist, even at a young age. An orthodontic professional can identify any potential problems and perform early intervention techniques while a child’s jaws are still growing and permanent teeth are still coming in. Call an orthodontist like from John Redmond Orthodontics, for more information.