Habits: Thumbsucking, Fingers and the Pacifier

Thumbsucking is a natural reflex in infants and children. It helps with relaxation and makes them feel safe, comfortable and happy.

Most children stop by the age of 4. If a child doesn’t stop their habit by this age it could impact the alignment of their baby teeth and their developing mouth, jaw, permanent teeth and speech.

Tell your dentist of your child’s habit. Your dentist will determine whether or not dental issues may be a concern. Some factors to take into consideration are the frequency, duration, and intensity of the sucking. Those children who only rest their thumbs passively in their mouths are less likely to have issues than those who vigorously suck their thumbs.

Pacifiers can effect the teeth the same way as sucking a thumb or fingers. The good news is that a pacifier habit is usually easier to break since it is not attached to the body and has more parental control.

How to encourage your child to break the habit:

  • Read books that describe stopping their habit as a normal growing up process
  • Praise your child for doing their best with positive reinforcement; try not to scold your child or draw added attention
  • Keep up with gentle verbal reminders
  • Keep hands busy during the day by coloring, using stress /sensory balls, crazy putty, or fidget cube
  • Focus on the cause of the anxiety and provide comfort in different ways
  • If older than age 4, let them be a part in choosing the method of stopping; maybe putting a sock on the hand at night, bandaging the thumb/finger, use a Thumbuddy To Love (thumb puppet)
  • Sometimes having their favorite blanket or stuffed animal “go on vacation” for a week or two may help. Usually the thumbsucking goes hand in hand with their favorite item
  • Painting a bitter medication on thumb/finger. Some examples are Thum Stop Liquid, Grannies Bitter Apple, or Mavala Stop
  • Limit the pacifier to the bedroom and sleep time only and try to remove after they have fallen asleep
  • Pick a date or birthday as a quitting time and talk about it often, then celebrate this important occasion
  • Referral to an orthodontist for appliance therapy. Most appliances lay on the roof of mouth and extend down towards the front teeth. They usually interfere with the child putting the thumb/finger in a comfortable position and make it difficult to create a suction or get the lips closed.
534 Redbird Cir
De Pere, WI 54115
(920) 336-4002