Thumb sucking is one of the cutest things we see our children doing. This is a normal reflex in infants and toddlers and plays several important roles in early development. It is a young child’s early way of controlling emotions because it offers comfort and security, literally in a child’s hands. For many children, it becomes an intuitive way to relax, focus and calm themselves down.

For most children, the desire to suck on the thumb for comfort decreases as they develop. However, in some cases it becomes a habit and continues well beyond the age where it is appropriate. It becomes a mechanism by which they comfort themselves even at an older age. Many older children stop thumb sucking as they grow through peer pressure, as they see other children around them outgrow it.

Beyond a certain age, thumb sucking can be a detrimental habit and should be discussed with a paediatric dentist What are the risks of thumb sucking, and how can you intervene in a healthy way? Read on to find out more.

Problems Caused by Excessive Thumb Sucking

Habitual thumb sucking can cause calluses on the skin of the thumb as it cracks and heals repeatedly.

Prolonged thumb sucking can negatively affect the development of the teeth, causing them to become misaligned. It constricts the upper jaw and could result in a gap between the top and bottom teeth. The frequency and intensity of the habit indicates the dental impact on teeth. Keep in mind that if the habit is discontinued by age four, the child’s teeth naturally fall back into line.

How Do You Break the Habit?

Here some advice we offer parents who are trying to stop their children from sucking their thumb:

Talk to Your Child

Try calmly explaining to your child in simple terms why you want them to stop. This may take some persistence, but it pays off!

Try Positive Reinforcement

Encourage your child to believe that they can stop the habit. While it is important to not turn thumb sucking into a matter of shame, praising them when they don’t suck their thumb is a great way to reinforce your point.

Alternative Ways of Finding Comfort

If your child is older, encourage them to vocalise their feelings and help them communicate when they are in need of comfort. Try other objects such as stuffed toys.

Paediatric Dentistry Services in Melbourne

While thumb sucking is relatively harmless, if continued beyond a certain age, this habit can cause several dental complications. Beyond the age of five, habitual thumb sucking can be an indication of an anxiety disorder. We recommend speaking to your dentist about your child’s habit before taking any significant action. At King Street Dental, we have years of experience standing by parents as they navigate the complex world of child dental care. If you are concerned about your child, call now to speak to our team, or book an appointment for your child to receive expert advice.