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  • Writer's pictureDr. Saumitra Saravana

Thumb Sucking!

Thumb Sucking is a very common concern for most Parents. It is important to understand that the need to suck is a very important survival trait that helps infants survive in the first few months of their lives.

This need to suck results in infants engaging in sucking even inside the mother's womb and is seen continuing in infants till they are about 2 years or so. Thumb Sucking is so common that it is safe to say that a 100% of Children have done it at some point in their lives.

Now, most Children stop this habit on their own and only about 10% of 4 year olds continue with the habit. At this point most parents feel that something should be done to help the child wean off the habit. It is important to break the habit because continuing the habit leads to malformation of the jaw, crooked teeth or buck teeth, altered patterns of speech, altered position of lips, higher chance of injuries to front teeth due to falls etc. So what to do about Thumb Sucking? Like with most things, prevention is better than the cure. The AAPD recommends that children use a Pacifier that is Dentally Recommended instead of a thumb. It is so much easier to take the pacifier away when the need arises. Thumbs well...not so much.

Children suck their thumbs if they are feeling insecure. It is important for us to recognize this and try to fix the problem. For example, if the habit occurs when the child is bored, then distracting or engaging them should work well. Praise always works better than scolding. Remember it's almost impossible to reason with a young child about long term effects of anything they do. Telling them, "If you do not stop putting your thumb in your mouth, you will need braces!" might make as much sense as speaking mandarin. You could point out to his or her favorite characters and show them how they do not put their thumbs in their mouths etc. Gentle reminders work better than haranguing your child. Peer pressure many times work better than parental pressure! Also, repeated scolding’s might make your child a Closet Thumb Sucker.

Try giving them control of the behavior and offer praise and rewards for success. A daily chart that plots times that finger was not sucked perhaps and a reward for a set goal is an example. Parents should not be frustrated when there is a relapse. Johnny was not potty trained in a week, these things take time to work.

A sufficiently mature child, usually after 4 years of age can be helped with habit reminder.

Bitter Tasting nail polish like Mavala Stop or Physical Restraints such as Thumb Guard will help them stop the habit. It is very important to continue whatever training tool you are using for at least 3-4 weeks to make sure they break the habit. If you are seeing a general decrease in the amount of sucking, then you are on the right track. Relapses can happen and do not be surprised if there is a new child, or if you move or if their normal routine is disrupted in any way if the habit reappears. Night time sucking is the last to go, and the most difficult to stop.

Ok, so if you have tried all that and it does not work, we dentists can make a Guard that fits in the child’s mouth. This is worn by the child at all times and is painless. It’s not very visible and sits behind the child’s front teeth and stops the placement of the Thumb or Finger. These usually work most of the time but they cannot be used on preschoolers. Any Jaw Deformations can be corrected easily on kids about 8 years old or so.

If your are looking for a dentist near you/ in Fredericksburg area or you need to get a free consult or have any questions about Dry Mouth call our office at 540 370 8504 or email us at

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