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How to Stop Thumb Sucking

My Toddler Sucks her Thumb!

I recently took our three daughters to the dentist. Our oldest two girls got excellent feedback on their teeth and their teeth positioning. However, our third daughter Lila, who is two and a half, didn't get the same report. The reason: She's a thumb sucker! While her gums and teeth looked great, the positioning of her teeth didn't look so good. Her teeth are moving into an arched formation because of her constant thumb sucking. Our dentist advised her to stop sucking her thumb, which promptly made her cry; she didn't like being reprimanded by someone other than her parents.

The thumb sucking is a blessing and a curse at the same time. Neither of our other girls sucked their thumb, so we never had to deal with this topic. Lila is easily soothed, transitions to sleep well, and doesn't cry for long periods of time because she has her trusty thumb always there for comfort. Now we need to figure out a soothing method that won't ruin her teeth.

I've done a lot of research and will share my findings with you. Please leave a comment if you've experienced a thumb sucking problem and have a solution! Keep in mind that every child is different and they all won't respond to the same methods in the same way; please take into account your individual child and their personality when using any of the tips, and always talk to your dentist or doctor before trying out any of the products.

Tips to Stop Thumbsucking

  1. Give a lot of praise. Praise your child when they aren't sucking their thumb. Praise is always better than scolding or belittling. If you do notice them sucking their thumb, you can gently say, "Ah, ah, ah." I say, "What did the dentist say?" Lila's response, "Oh Tweetie, no sucking your thumb."
  2. Provide an alternative to the thumb. When you notice your child needs comfort provide a special blanket or stuffed animal to cuddle with. You can say, "You look sad/tired, how about if I get you your soft blanket to snuggle with."
  3. If you have a girl, you can paint her nails and remind her that sucking her thumb will take off the polish.
  4. Have your dentist talk to your child about their teeth and the problems they will have when they suck their thumb.
  5. When verbal coaxing and the other above methods don't work, you can try putting gloves on your child during prime thumb sucking times - like naptime. Remind your child that this isn't a punishment, but a reminder for them to keep their hands out of their mouth.
  6. If none of the other methods work, your dentist can prescribe a bad tasting, non-toxic medication to coat the thumb. We used the Mavala finger paint. Our daughter called it the "taste bad".
  7. Although pricey, a thumb guard can be purchased. If your child is young enough that they can't take it off or if they thumb suck while sleeping, this may work.
  8. There is also a product called a thumbster that it basically a glove for the thumb only.

My final advice is to try not to make too big of a deal of the problem. Drawing too much attention to the constant thumbsucking can have the opposite effect of what you want. In most cases, thumb sucking is stopped by the age of 5; peer pressure plays a big role in this as well as natural maturity. Good luck with the process and feel free to leave any feedback or questions you may have for the community!

When Should My Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb?

Sucking is a natural reflex and soothing technique among infants and children. Pacifiers and thumb sucking are a natural way to fulfill this need. The question is, when is a good time to stop thumb sucking and providing a pacifier? The ADA (American Dental Association) recommends to try to stop your child from thumb sucking after permanent teeth have come in. The sucking can cause problems with the mouth and tooth alignments. If changes are occurring before permanent teeth have come in because of aggressive thumb sucking, like in my daughter's case, parents should attempt to stop the thumb sucking earlier.

Our dentist was able to see a change in the structure of our daughter's mouth at her last appointment, so we are trying to get her to stop now. Here are some techniques I have researched.

Hey, I don't want to stop sucking my thumb!

Hey, I don't want to stop sucking my thumb!

Products to Help Stop Thumb Sucking

If I put my hands in my pockets, then I won't suck my thumb!

If I put my hands in my pockets, then I won't suck my thumb!

Any Tips on How to Stop Thumbsucking?

TinaAtHome from California on October 08, 2010:

My first 3 children didn't suck fingers, but my 4th child sucked 2 fingers together. I had no idea what to do. When she was around 5 I noticed she didn't suck her fingers any more, I asked her why? Her reply - I decided not to. And that was the end of it. I was preparing for a struggle and I didn't get one. Simply, one day she stopped.

Laurel Rogers from Bishop, Ca on October 01, 2010:

What an informative hub, Robin! My interest in the matter rests in the fact that I have a brand new grandson-31 days old. He's already trying to stuff his fingers in his mouth. I sucked my thumb until I was 12 years old! Finally, because of the peer pressure you brought up here, I quit, and I remember that day well.

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My teeth are pretty close to perfect, though, and I'm not sure why. ;)

Great hub, Robin-thanks.

kimballtrombone on October 01, 2010:

I have a 7 yr old who still sucks her thumb at night and when she's stressed/tired. Thanks for the ideas!

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on October 01, 2010:

Thank you, Earth Angel! It's going to be a tough one to kick. She loves that thumb! xoxo Robin

Earth Angel on October 01, 2010:

Blessings to you this lovely Friday morning!!

I never sucked my thumb but my little brother did for years!! Well into grade school! My mother was even a dental assistant!! Yep, I have flawless teeth and my brother's teeth have been a nightmare all his life!!

Your suggestions sound loving and compassionate, and your photos of precious Lila just adorable!! I know her two older sisters will help with the transition process as well!!

Life can be a challenge sometimes, for young ones, and for us older ones as well!! There are many days I would love to suck my thumb or curl up with a soft blanket! Maybe that is why I love pets so much; they are living beings that cuddle no matter what!!

Your sweet family is the picture of health, vitality and happiness!! I know sweet Lila will give up her thumb easily because she is so loved!! Thanks for sharing!!

Blessings always, Earth Angel!!

Hello, hello, from London, UK on October 01, 2010:

Well written hub on a concerning subject.

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