Should I Stop My Child From Sucking His Thumb?

When my brother was a baby, about 2 to 4 years old, we, my other brother and I, often teased him because he sucked his thumbed. The habit was so pronounced that a distinct callous, the size of a small pea, formed on his right thumb just below the joint. We teased him that if he wasn’t going to stop, the thing would grow and become a sixth finger. In retrospect, we, the older siblings, were really a bit mean to him, and we deserved being told off by our mother at that time. She didn’t tell our brother to cease the habit nor did she scold him about it, and we really didn’t know when or how he stopped thumb sucking. But he did; and today, his teeth are pretty much straight and nice-looking.

About Thumb Sucking

Being a parent is really hard. You can’t help but worry about everything, such as what might happen to your baby if she chokes or what if she bumps her head quite hard and kill all those developing neurons that were supposed to make her like Einstein. As a mother, I worried about so many things, and this included thumb sucking. When my daughter was almost a year old (she is now going on 3), she tried to start sucking her thumb. Whenever I see her put her thumb inside her mouth, I removed it. I read somewhere that you should not associate the action with anything negative. For instance, do not scold your baby as you discourage her from thumb sucking. Don’t say that she is doing something bad or that she’s being a naughty girl. Just remove the thumb like it was a normal thing to do, and be consistent about it. No giving in even though your child is sending you all these cute gooey-eyed looks.

Should Parents Be Concerned?

I’ve read extensively about the matter and most experts agree that thumb sucking isn’t really a problem, as long as a baby stops the habit before he forms permanent teeth, which is when he’s about 6 years old. Generally, kids just stop this once they begin to become active and occupied with other more interesting things. In case the practice persists beyond 5 or 6 years old, your child will likely deal with a few oral problems mainly due to the malformation of teeth. Examples are: overbite, open bite, reshaped palate or jaw, and teeth misalignment.

Stopping Thumb Sucking

1. Discourage the habit early on

You probably do not want to bring to an end to your child’s thumb sucking when he’s already older and ready to put up a fight. One thing that you can do is nip the habit in the bud, so to speak. As mentioned earlier, child care experts say that in stopping thumb sucking, do not scold or get angry at the child as this will only emphasize the behavior.

2. Give a simple explanation to an older child

Children who are 3 years and older can already listen and understand a few things. So, what you can do here is to explain why thumb sucking is not a good thing. Although the child won’t be able to totally comprehend the ramifications that you are so concerned about, he’ll feel more involved in the process. It also won’t hurt to explain things using terms that he readily understands.

Claire Levine is a freelance writer and a mother. She blogs about a variety of topics, but her focus is on issues regarding dentistry. She writes about dental care, surgeries, and other cosmetic procedures to improve smiles. She also provides material for a number of dentists and dental clinics, including Lamb Family Dental which provides assistance to everyone, from kids to the elderly, who have teeth problems.


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