Solving Thumb Sucking in a Few Easy Steps

Did you know that thumbsucking is a common part of a child's development? The act helps them relax and fall asleep, but it's also something that must stop by a certain age.  Naturally, children wean themselves up to age three but the habit may continue even past 5 years of age. If thumb sucking continues into a child's pre-school or grade school years, it could indicate the need for medical intervention.

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The Effects of Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking can happen on two levels, some kids may be used to thumb sucking while others may be used to sucking on a pacifier. The act becomes difficult to let go of since it's a tact they use to fall asleep more easily. The act is adorable at first, but it could turn into a pure disaster once the kind starts developing teeth. The long-term effects of sucking on thumbs or pacifiers include the misalignment of teeth and potential defects that may be costly to fix in the future. Babies that aggressively suck pacifiers could attract middle-ear infections that would require surgical intervention to fix the issue.

Parents that may have kids who are preschool age or younger do not have to worry about any long haul consequences of thumb sucking. It is recommended for parents to intervene before the child develops a dental issue, speech problem, or develops a callus on their thumb. Parents should try and stop the habit so that the kids grow healthy without complications that may require surgical medical intervention.

Below are some good reasons why your child should stop sucking their thumb:

Problems with Malocclusion

Excessive sucking of the thumb or pacifier can cause conditions such as malocclusion, which is the misalignment of the lower and upper teeth. One of the most common forms of malocclusion that develops is the open bite. The open bite condition implies that the upper and lower teeth fail to come into contact with each other when the mouth is closed. Another form of malocclusion is overbite which affects children who tend to suck pacifiers and thumbs past the toddler age. The condition is displayed when the teeth upper teeth noticeably overlap with the lower teeth. An overbite affects the ideal function of the upper teeth that are deprived of performing their respective roles.

Essentially, thumb or pacifier sucking can cause misalignment and gaps in the teeth and jaw. The effect will be long term and your child will have issues when chewing or biting into foods. They also have the potential of affecting their speech. The side effects of malocclusion can affect your kid's self-confidence and social life.

Changes to Facial & Jaw Development

A child's growth can be derailed or affected by internal or external factors. The facial structures are still in the developmental phase and some structures are prone to change as the child grows. The constant sucking of a pacifier or thumb can alter the facial the orofacial complex that consists of the teeth, and muscles of the jaw, mouth and face. The constant pressure exerted when sucking tends to cause a movement that shifts the teeth into an unnatural position which affects the overall facial structure. 

Constant sucking also implies that the jaw is not given enough space to develop properly. Misalignment causes the facial muscles to adjust according to teeth structure. It affects how they will bite, talk, and chew in the future. The adjustment of the facial muscles affects the child's facial structure and appearance. The worst-case scenario would be developing an orofacial myological disorder (OMD) which is expensive to treat.

Speech Impediments 

Sucking of the thumb or pacifier can result in conditions like lisping and other speech impairment conditions.

Thrusting of the Tongue

This condition is caused by excessive thumb and pacifier sucking. Thrusting of the tongue is when the tongue uncontrollably thrusts out of the mouth while conversing and talking.


Children are exposed to all forms of germs and thumb sucking can be one way of transferring the germs. Children are carefree and will stop at nothing when it comes to playing and exploring, constantly exposing them to germs that could cause severe infections, like thrush.

Emotional Issues 

Thumb sucking can be a precursor and warning that your child may be going through some emotional distress and maybe using it as an emotional crutch or placation. Introverted children may use their thumb as a way to deal with their emotional disorders.

Skin Irritations 

Children who regularly suck their thumbs tend to develop excessive wetness around their mouths which causes rashes and irritation. Again, they develop chapped skin as well as dry lips. It is always a wise decision to stop the habit at a tender age. Past the age of three would be presenting your kid with a long-term danger of accruing facial and teeth problems.

Steps to Help Your Kid Stop Thumb Sucking

Step 1

It is always a crucial step to identify when and why your child developed the habit. Record these events and activities as they unfold. Mark the first day your child started thumb sucking and record the times they've exhibited the behavior. Note the emotions that trigger such behavior and go through the notes to note any consistencies.

Step 2

Identify the triggers and the payoffs. For instance, if you notice that he sucks his thumb when hurt, then draw up a conclusion that the thumb helps him calm down and deal with the pain. When you observe that he sucks her thumb while watching his favorite TV show, then deduce that she does it when she's idle.

Step 3

When you've noted and deduced the reasons why thumb sucking occurs, try and come up with a close substitute that will help replace the thumb. For instance, when you note that he sucks his thumb while watching a favorite show, introduce a snack or a bowl of grapes that will keep him busy as well. Whenever he rushes to suck his thumb after he is hurt, rush over and console him instead by giving him a tight hug. Also, introduce his favorite toy to act as a distraction.

Step 4

Come up with a reward chart for an older toddler and condition him not to suck his thumb. Congratulate him and treat him when he successfully comes out victorious. The routine will keep him alert and cautious. Gradually, he will learn to keep his thumb away from his mouth.

Dealing with Nighttime Thumb Suckers

Most children who suck their thumbs during the day also tend to repeat the behavior while they sleep. It is important to come up with something that is comforting and causes a distraction. You can tie a ribbon around his thumb or use a light pair of gloves that will act as a reminder. You can also introduce an ideal sleep toy that has a soothing texture that will divert their attention to it and not the mouth.

Always remember that bad habits are difficult to break and it takes patience and consistency. Come up with personalized solutions for your kid since you know them better. Learn their routines and help them fight this battle. It will save you a lot of trouble and expenses in the future!

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