Thumb sucking: Help your child break the habit

Thumb sucking

Thumb sucking can be a difficult habit for a child to break. Understand what you can do to help your child stop sucking his/her thumb.

For a new parent the amount of information that comes at you about your baby’s health can be overwhelming. Just when you think you’re well-informed, someone shares an article on social media or you read about new research in a magazine, making you question if you’re really doing the right thing for your baby.

For example, there’s a lot of debate out there over pacifiers and thumb sucking. In this article, we will know the truth about how these activities might affect your baby’s dental health.

Why do some children do ?

Babies have natural rooting and  sucking reflex , which can cause them to put their thumbs into their mouths — sometimes even before birth. Because thumb sucking makes babies feel secure, some babies might eventually develop a habit of Thumb sucking when they’re in need of soothing or want to sleep.

It’s not a bad thing

Let us tell you that both pacifier use and thumb sucking are not bad. Sucking is a natural reflex for newborns. At an early age, pacifiers and thumb sucking are harmless activities.


How long does thumb sucking usually last?

Many children stop sucking their thumbs on their own, often by age 6 or 7 months or between ages 2 and 4. But even a child who’s stopped sucking his or her thumb might go back to the behavior during times of stress.

The positive in the pacifier habit


Firstly, pacifier and thumb sucking are positive experiences, helping an infant self-soothe. When you want your baby to sleep, a pacifier is an acceptable way to get them to relax during nap time especially true during their first six months. In addition, studies have shown that pacifiers have been linked to greatly reduced risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It’s perfectly okay for you to allow your child to use a pacifier and there are no adverse effects on a baby’s dental health in newborns up to the age of two.

When to wean

After two-years-old, parents should begin to wean their child off a pacifier. Before age two, a child’s growing bones will self-correct any alignment problems that resulted from sucking a pacifier. So, up to that age a pacifier will not cause dental problems that would require orthodontic treatment.

Thumb sucking vs. pacifiers

One might think that thumb sucking is a more natural alternative to pacifiers but the problem comes when it’s time to wean your child from the habit. Many dental experts prefer a parent to encourage pacifier use over thumb sucking so that your exit strategy is more straightforward.

The downside of pacifier use

As we said and pacifiers and thumb sucking are not harmful activities as long as they do not go on too long. But what happens if you don’t break your child of the habit?

In that case, there can be some detrimental effects on your child’s mouth, teeth, jaw, and face. The damage to your child’s oral health depends on a number of factors, including how often and how long you child sucks his or her thumb or uses the pacifier. Effects range from misaligned jaw (overbite or crossbite) to buck teeth and soft tissue damage that can result in years of orthodontic and dental treatment to fix. To reduce this possible damage, get them weaned by age four at the latest.

Advice on weaning

Nipping the habit can be hard but not impossible. First, you need to remember that children feel comforted by this activity so cajoling or punishing a child to get them to stop is not the right approach to take. Instead, techniques that are positive and encouraging often work better and lead to less frustration for both parent and child.

You can try a reward method, where you give your child a prize for successfully refraining from thumbsucking or a pacifier for a predetermined period of time – say, an hour before bedtime or after dinner. Stickers to reward children helps encourage them and make them feel good about achieving their goal.

For thumbsuckers specifically, you can also try a bandaid METHOD or some other covering on the thumb to prevent the child from sucking.

Visit your dentist

thumb sucking appliance

There are methods to help stop thumb sucking and pacifier use in later years and we can help.

And yes, it’s never really too early to bring your child to visit us. As a matter of fact, your child’s first check-up should come just as they’re sprouting their first lower central incisors. At the latest, we recommend establishing a practice of regular checkups at least by their first birthday. 

An appliance is available that will make the act more difficult and less enjoyable. Some appliances are removable and for intense thumbsuckers a device that is cemented in might be an option.

Call us today at Infinity Dental best dental clinic in Lucknow to schedule a consultation to know more.

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Dr. Damini Agarwal

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