When Thumb-Sucking Should Stop

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A Habit from Birth
Thumb-sucking comes naturally to children. It is a reflex. When babies suck on their thumbs, fingers, pacifiers, or other things, they feel happy and safe. This habit helps them to learn about the wide world around them. Young children often suck to soothe themselves when upset or to help them to fall asleep.

Potential Problems
Children usually stop sucking their thumb between the ages of two and four. However, if your child continues to suck his or her thumb as the permanent teeth begin to come in, problems can occur. Thumb-sucking can cause issues with the growth of your child’s mouth. This habit can also cause teeth to come in crooked. Buck teeth are a common result of prolonged thumb-sucking. If your child just rests their thumb in their mouth, they are less likely to develop dental problems than if they suck their thumb vigorously.

Tips to Break the Habit
Instead of punishing your child for sucking their thumb, reward them for not thumb-sucking. Encourage them to break the habit. Encouraging and rewarding your child will increase their self-esteem and confidence. Punishment and criticism for thumb-sucking often cause more harm than good as children who continue to thumb-suck often have anxiety or self-esteem issues. Identify the cause of your child’s anxiety and comfort them. Some parents put a bitter-tasting liquid on their child’s thumbnails or put mittens on their child before bed to discourage thumb-sucking. If these methods do not work, ask your child’s dentist for advice.