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Breaking Your Child's Thumb Sucking Habit

Snehal Motkar Feb 29, 2020
Kids develop a number of unusual habits like nail biting, thumb sucking, mud eating, hair twirling, etc., during their growing years. Although some kids outgrow these habits around the age of three or at the onset of permanent teeth, some kids continue with these habits for a long time.
Here is a post that will help you break your kid's thumb sucking habit without spanking or using unfair means.
Although, thumb sucking and other such habits in kids are annoying, parents must be patient enough to find ways in breaking such habits and deal with the problem accordingly. Analysis is very important while looking for suitable ways to break the habit.
What does thumb sucking really represent for the age in which your child does it, should be understood. For example, in infancy and toddler hood it represents anxiety and stress, which will subside gradually as the child grows older and becomes independent.
For these circumstances, intervention of parents is not required, rather it might delay the breaking of the habit. Some children also suck their fingers and hands apart from their thumb which can cause adverse effects on the teeth, jaw as well as the hands.
Some significant problems caused by this habit are:

◈ Thumb and fingernail infections
◈ Problems in chewing
◈ Problems in speech
◈ Problems in facial appearance
The damage caused by thumb sucking is not the same throughout; it depends on factors like intensity, duration and frequency of the habit.
Also, the emphasis lies on the fact that the problems mentioned above may prove to be serious, only if the child does not give up the habit even after completing five years of age or after the eruption of permanent teeth. Let us now find out some effective ways to break thumb sucking habit in your child as he/she hasn't yet given up the habit.

Home Remedies

Even though the habit may not be a concern until the age of four or five, if you are able to break the habit before that it's well and good, because the harm caused to the permanent teeth and the jaws will be minimal.

Explain the Bad Effects

Normally, some kids stop daytime thumb sucking when they begin their schooling because of the peer pressure. However, they continue to suck their thumb during their bedtime. Tell the child that the habit is not suitable for his/her age, i.e., he/she is too old to suck thumb.
You can make the child stand in front of the mirror while he/she is sucking the thumb and show how he/she looks while doing it. If you think your child is mature enough to understand the medical complications of thumb sucking, go ahead and explain it.

Bandage the Thumb

This is a very common kind of trick parents use to break their child's habit of thumb sucking. An unpleasant tasting or smelling liquid is used to coat the thumb so the child won't feel like putting it in the mouth. The child will associate the habit with bad taste and he/she will eventually give it up.
You can also tie a handkerchief to the thumb reminding the child about the wrong habit, thus keeping him/her away from doing it. Many parents also make their children wear gloves before going to bed to prevent thumb sucking.

Engage the Child in Other Activities

This can be the most effective way before going for medical help. Observe your child carefully and look for the reasons that trigger thumb sucking like, tiredness, hunger or fear and deal with it accordingly.
If you find that the child has no valid reason, yet he/she is sucking the thumb, try to engage him/her in some activity like painting, coloring, solving puzzles, etc., which will distract him/her in a constructive way.
Remember: Try to understand that children during these years often feel insecure and suck their thumb to calm and comfort themselves. Make it a point to give attention to your little one, which will comfort and encourage him/her to get rid of the habit.
You should also praise the kid whenever you find he/she is not sucking the thumb and spend some quality time to reinforce the spirit.

Dental Treatment

If home remedies don't work, then what to do? Don't lose hope. Medical treatments are available whenever home remedies fail or are inadequate to stop thumb sucking in kids. Usually, a dental crib is helpful to prevent the kid's teeth and jaws from getting damaged due to thumb sucking and also helps the child to do away with the habit.
Why is crib placement so effective? It is because, pleasure is derived from the contact of thumb skin with oral mucous membrane. When the crib is fixed in the mouth of the child, the pleasure factor from the habit is lost and the child no more feels like sucking the thumb.
The orthodontist, first, examines the oral condition of the child, takes dental and facial photographs and then constructs a suitable crib. Once the crib is fixed, you don't have to do any adjustments to set it up or remove any parts. It is the simplest device you can use to stop your kid's thumb sucking habit.
It is very important to understand whether your child is a gentle thumb sucker or a vigorous thumb sucker, because the former does not cause as many problems as the latter. If you hear a popping sound when the child removes the thumb from mouth, it is vigorous sucking which is quite serious.
It can cause flaring of front teeth, whereas the lower teeth may grow inward. To avoid such major oral problems, observe your child carefully and take quick steps if you sense any complications.