What Do I Do About My Child’s Thumb Sucking?

young boy with thumb in mouthIf you are like many parents, you may be concerned that your child is still sucking his/her thumb. Remember, though, thumb sucking is a normal part of a child’s development. As children approach four years of age, however, you might have to help them break the habit. Dr. Steven Van Wicklen can help you figure out how to best approach this with your child. Below are some ideas which have proven over time to be effective.

What can I do?

The first thing to do is relax. Almost all children outgrow thumb sucking during their fourth year. What you can do is add positive reinforcement to their desire to stop. At four, most children begin to see that bigger children are not sucking their thumb and they begin to express a desire to stop.

  • Use positive reinforcement. Tell your child that you are there to help.
  • Understand that thumb sucking is a habit and like most habits, most children are unaware that they suck their thumb as much as they do. Remind them, gently, that they are sucking their thumb.
  • If your child’s thumb sucking makes a loud noise, then intensity is likely an issue. This may put pressure on the upper jaw and soft tissue of the mouth that could later lead to a need for braces. Do not panic, but rather come up with activities to supplant your child’s thumb-sucking. Substituting with candy is definitely not a good idea. For effective suggestions, contact Dr. Van Wicklen.
  • Encourage your child, at first, to limit their thumb sucking to inside the home. This may be easier than you think. Peer pressure is normally a major reason why children decide to stop sucking their thumb.
  • Once your child has mastered thumb sucking only at home, then encourage your child to limit their thumb sucking to their bedroom. Before too long, the thumb sucking will most likely develop into nothing more than an occasional sleep aid. Over time, as you suggest other comforting things, like a favorite stuffed animal or toy, thumb sucking will gradually disappear.

About Your Austin Dentist

For almost 30 years, Dr. Steven Van Wicklen has provided expert general, cosmetic, restorative, and emergency dentistry services to residents and families in Austin, Round Rock, Pflugerville, Bastrop, Bee Cave, Cedar Park, and surrounding communities. To schedule an appointment, contact Dr. Van Wicklen’s South Austin office at (512) 448-3131.