How To Get Your Child To Stop Damaging Her Teeth By Sucking Her Thumb

23 September 2015
 Categories: Dentist, Blog

Many children suck on their thumbs. Most children stop sucking their thumbs while they are still a baby, but if your child continues this behavior while her permanent teeth are growing in, your child could develop serious dental care problems. The upper teeth can begin to protrude outward and separate from each other while the lower teeth will slant backward due to the sucking action - which can eventually cause biting, speech, and cosmetic problems. Here is how you can get your child to stop sucking her thumb.

Avoid Confrontation

You need to understand that a main reason children suck their thumbs is because it helps them reduce their feelings of anxiety as they experience stressful situations such as the process of growing up. To prevent your child from becoming overly anxious as you try to change her behavior, you should encourage your child to stop sucking their thumb instead of scolding her to try to get them to stop.

Don't cover her thumb with something bad tasting to try to make your child stop her thumb-sucking, or make her wear gloves as a deterrent. These actions will increase her anxiety and usually produce the opposite result of what you want to achieve. You want your child to feel comfortable about changing her behavior.

Limit Thumb-Sucking Times

You should set a limit on when it is okay for your child to suck her thumb so she can transition to other ways to handle her anxiety without becoming overwhelmed at totally losing an important psychological safety net. Let her know that if she can go through the day without sucking her thumb, then it'll be okay for her to fall asleep with her thumb in her mouth. This might mean she'll be sucking her thumb a little at night or during naps, but this will still ease the pressure on her mouth and teeth than if she did it all day long.

Show Encouragement

Let your child know that you realize that trying to stop her thumb-sucking is a challenge for her and that you are here to help her stop. Gently nudge her to stop by asking of she thinks her favorite story book or cartoon characters suck their teeth. If she says no, let her know that is because as kids get older they stop sucking their thumbs because they are growing up, and if she wants to act like a grown-up, she should stop sucking her thumb, too.

With your help and encouragement, your child will eventually become better aware of when and why she sucks her thumb. In time, she will learn to control her urges and find alternative methods to handle the anxiety she feels as she grows up. This will not only help her psychologically, but it will also help protect her teeth.