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How To Help Your Child Break Their Thumb-Sucking Habit

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Although sucking one's thumb can be a natural habit, eventually your child needs to start to outgrow this habit. If your child continues to suck their thumb for too long, it could have consequences on their dental health.

Consequences Of Prolonged Thumb Sucking

It is okay for your child to suck their thumb when they are a baby. A baby sucks their thumb as a way to soothe themselves and it gives them a sense of security. Some babies suck their teeth in order to fall asleep.

However, at some point, your child needs to stop sucking their thumb. When your child's permanent teeth start to come in, your child's thumb sucking can have long term consequences. As your child gets older, and continues to suck their thumb, the structure of the roof of their mouth can change and cause permanent damage.

If your child continues to suck to suck their thumb as their permanent teeth come in, it can alter how your child's mouth grows and develops and it can also alter the alignment of their permanent teeth. This can lead to serious dental problems down the line as your child's mouth and teeth did not come in as they should have if your child did not suck on their thumb.

Helping Your Child Stop

If your child is getting to the point where their permanent teeth are going to start coming in soon, and they still suck their thumb on a regular basis, you need to step in and take action to help your child stop this habit because it can be detrimental as your child gets older. Here are a few strategies that you can employ to help your child stop sucking on their thumb.

To start with, focus on praising your child every time you see them not sucking their thumb in a situation when they would normally suck their thumb. Say something like, "I see that you are not sucking your thumb. I see that you are holding your teddy bear instead because you are tired. That is so great that you choose not to suck your thumb." By providing your child with praise and reinforcing the choice that your child is making, you will let them know that they will get positive attention from you by changing this habit. When you do see your child sucking their thumb, do not get angry or tell them to stop. Instead, redirect them to more appropriate way of expressing their feelings in the moment. Do not give the thumb sucking more attention than it deserves.

Next, help your child find other ways of dealing with their emotions. This will require you to be aware of why your child sucks their thumb in the first place. If your child sucks their thumb when they are tired, give your child a stuffed animal to hold instead and help them learn to verbally express that they are tired. If your child sucks their thumb because they are nervous, help your child build up their confidence so that they are not so nervous. Focus on providing your child with the tools to change their habits.

You can also explain to your child why you want them to stop sucking on their thumb. By explaining to them that sucking their thumb is doing serious damage to their teeth and their mouth, you can invest in your child in the mission to stop sucking their thumb. For assistance, talk to a professional like Marci Mendola-Pitcher DDS.