Breaking The Thumb Sucking Habit

It is a habit that starts out as an instinctual need in infants. Thumb sucking for infants still nursing is a natural extension of their drive for nourishment. Continued thumb sucking can turn into a bad long-term habit. Thumb sucking in children four years and older can have a negative effect on their school, home, and social lives. Habitual thumb sucking can also have negative physical effects on the child. Luckily, there are methods and devices to aid children to stop thumb sucking .

It is best to try to discourage thumb sucking before it can cause serious physical and social problems for the child. A child that sucks his or her thumb at school may face ridicule from his or her peers. Chronic thumb sucking can also lead to problems that cause the child to have difficulty in talking clearly. Since stress is often a reason for the thumb sucking , the child may need to learn other ways to deal with stress. Physical problems from thumb sucking can include both malformation of the teeth and deformation of the thumb itself. The teeth can be forced to grow with excess space making changes in the child’s mouth that effect his or her ability to swallow. The frequent sucking can cause the skin on the thumb to become callused and chapped, often leading to skin infections.

Treatment to help a child break the thumb sucking habit comes in many forms. Gentle verbal support and reminders from parents and caregivers are a good place to start. Thumb guard and other similar devices that are placed on the child’s thumb to remind him or her not to suck it are used in a method called response prevention. In more serious cases, dental devices, like braces, can be installed in the child’s mouth to prevent the sucking.