How to stop thumb sucking in children-girl sucking thumb

How to Stop Thumb Sucking in Children-Fast/Easy

Babies are born with the need to suck. This helps them to feed and provides comfort. Thumb sucking becomes a habit because of its soothing and calming nature. This is a behavior that usually is outgrown between ages 2 and 4. Dental professionals agree that there can be consequences to your child’s oral development if it is allowed to continue beyond this age. As a dental professional myself, I want to teach you how to stop thumb sucking in children, fast and easy! You will wish you knew this information sooner and I guarantee you will be passing it on to your friends.

Thumb sucking is very common for babies and children. It is an innate reflex that may begin in the womb before birth. This can become a therapeutic sensation that correlates with nourishment, warmth and contentment. According to Wikipedia, sucking the thumb can cause a release of tension both physically and mentally. Most thumb sucking is thought to occur due to boredom, stress or hunger. It has been shown that babies who suck their thumb are able to comfort themselves, thus they sleep better and fall asleep faster than babies who do not suck their thumb.

Some babies will suck their thumb right from birth due to their internal instinct to suck. As a child grows older they seek to maintain the pleasurable, self soothing sensation of sucking. This may be a time when they replace the sucking during breast feeding or using a bottle with sucking their thumbs. A pacifier is sometimes used to maintain the comfort the baby is looking for. For some parents, a pacifier is an easier solution to prevent thumb sucking. It is argued that you can take away a pacifier when you need to but you cannot take away a thumb!

Boy sucking thumb

When Does Thumb Sucking Become a Problem?

If a child sucks their thumb, it is usually something they will give up by their 4th birthday. By this age, children will spend more of their waking hours spent on exploring their surrounding. This is normal and often quite common. If the behavior continues after this age, it is a good idea to encourage your child to stop. If thumb sucking ends before the permanent teeth start to erupt, not much damage has occurred.

However, permanent teeth will start to erupt at age 6 and if thumb sucking continues, it will affect how the oral cavity and permanent teeth develop. The thumb causes narrowing of the upper arch (roof of the mouth) which allows the posterior or back teeth to erupt in crossbite. This affects chewing function as the upper and lower teeth will not line up correctly.

Another unfortunate event is an open bite that thumb sucking creates. With the constant placing of the thumb between the front teeth, the upper and lower teeth will no longer come together in the front. This also causes the upper front teeth to tip outwards and the lower front teeth to tip inwards. A situation may be created called an overjet or an overbite. This can also become a problem with speech development as our teeth position correlates to correct pronunciation of words.

All developmental damage may require orthodontic treatments to correct. The Amercan Association of Orthodonics recommends a child have their first vist by age 7. If damage has occurred from prolonged thumb sucking, orthodontic treatment will be recognized. This will allow the orthodontist to take advantage of your child’s mouth and jaw development with appliances. Wearing an appliance may reduce the amount of time needed for your child to wear braces once all permanent teeth have developed. This usually occurs around age 12.

Keeping your child’s hands clean is a daunting task and they are at risk of placing foreign substances inside their mouth with thumb sucking. They will be introducing unwanted germs and bacteria into their oral cavity. While some may argue that this will boost their immune system, there are plenty of nasty bugs out there that have no place in your child’s mouth. You can learn other helpful tips for parents concerning your child’s dental health in a related article.

There are also social aspects to consider. Older children who suck their thumb may be teased and taunted by their peers. This can create emotional stress and feelings of insecurity in your child. Try not to put too much pressure on your child to stop. This may do more harm than good and cause your child to feel insecure as well. Instead, there is an effective way you can help your child break this habit without harming their self-esteem.Girl sucking thumb

A Fast and Easy Way to Stop Thumb Sucking in Children

There are many bad tasting solutions sold that are marketed to parents. It is suggested that these solutions will deter the child from wanting to place their thumb in their mouth. Simply put, these solutions are ineffective and a waste of money.

Most dentists do not recommend placing bitter tasting solutions on your child’s thumb. This technique is not recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA). This is a cruel and possibly exposes your child to unnatural ingredients and chemicals. Instead, the use of an appliance called a TGuard can be 95% effective in breaking a thumb sucking habit.

A TGuard stands for ThumbGuard and is sold as a TGuard AeroThumb. It is dentist recommended and comes with a 30-day money back guarantee. In fact, dentists, orthodontists and pediatricians have been recommending this product for their patients for 20 years. This appliance is made from a soft, flexible 100% BPA and phthalate free plastic. It is adjustable to your child’s thumb and is comfortable to wear. It usually takes less than 4 weeks of wear for your child to break the thumb sucking habit.

The TGuard appliance is FDA-listed and is medical grade. It is manufactured in the USA and may be reimbursed by your dental insurance company depending on your insurance carrier. If you are interested in seeing if your insurance company (or Medicaid) covers it, give them a call and mention the dental code: D8210. This code stands for ‘removable appliance therapy’ and this device is certified as a medical device using this dental code.

How the TGuard Works

When a TGuard is placed on the thumb, a space or gap is created between the appliance and your child’s thumb. This space allows for air flow which eliminates the vacuum suction that is normally created by sucking. This vacuum suction is the soothing pleasure your child is seeking by thumb sucking. The suction action is also responsible for the misalignment of teeth and other damaging oral conditions.

When your child sucks on their thumb with the TGuard device attached, they are not able to create the suction they are seeking. Instead, they will get air similar to sucking on a straw. With no suction, there is no pleasure. This helps your child forget about why they were thumb sucking to begin with. This causes them to do it less frequently. It usually only takes a few days before positive effects of this device are noticed. The recommended treatment time suggests 4 weeks but many children stop thumb sucking much sooner than this.How to stop thumb sucking in children-TGuard

The device is secure on the child’s thumb with an adjusting locking mechanism. This is also child proof so your child cannot remove it on their own. This device can be comfortably worn day and night for the duration of the treatment. It is non-invasive and will not interfere with your child’s daily activities. It is also easily cleaned with normal hand washing. After one week of no thumb sucking activity occurs, the device can safely be removed. Once the device comes off, the thumb sucking habit will be gone.

The TGuard AeroThumb can be purchased for the best price on Amazon. There are other products available fitted to the fingers if you have a child who sucks their fingers instead of their thumb. The same oral damage can occur from prolonged finger sucking as that which occurs from prolonged thumb sucking.

The Takeaway

Thumb sucking is not a bad thing. It is completely normal. However, when it goes on longer than it should, it can cause irreversible damage to your child’s developing oral cavity. When looking for treatment options, you will find a lot of behavioral advice. This may include tactics such as not scolding your child for doing it or calling attention to their habit. Some may suggest diverting your child’s attention or rewarding them for not thumb sucking.

While all of these techniques may be useful, there is no guarantee they will be effective. Such techniques may be attempted for years before they actually work (if they work). If you want to know how to stop thumb sucking in children, dental professionals agree that the TGuard device not only works best, it is also fast and easy. By putting an end to this habit, you will be preventing possible damage to your child’s physical, emotional and social well-being sooner than later.

Please leave your questions and comments below and I will be happy to help!

Medical Disclaimer:

The information that I provide on my website is not intended to take the place of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Care and investigation should always be sought from an appropriate health care provider before using any new or recommended products. I have created this site as a way to share information and experiences.

6 comments

  1. Al-Motaz

    Thank you very much for this informative post, I didn’t know that thumb sucking could be that bad. It is a normal habit in children and I don’t think we should prevent this unless it starts to be more than usual. The problem wouldn’t be with the child, but with the child’s parents because stress is the main reason for this. Sometimes adults suck their fingers when they are under a lot of pressure,

    Thank you again,

    Best Wishes,

    Al-Motaz

    1. Michelle Mussehl, RDH

      Al-Motaz,

      If thumb sucking is a prolonged habit, it can cause developmental issues with the teeth and surrounding structures. The main issues include open bite, overjet, crossbite and overbite. All of these conditions require orthodontic treatment to correct. Thumb sucking is not always stress related. A child could do it simply out of boredom or as a way to relax. The sucking motion creates pleasurable oral feelings that can be soothing. I appreciate you comments. 

      Thank you!

      Michelle

  2. LineCowley

    Hi Michelle, thank you for such an informative and helpful article on thumb sucking. I knew that sucking your thumb was not good for the way in which the teeth grew and developed, but never realized how badly it affects older children. Thankfully, my two boys were not thumb suckers, but I have several friends who struggled to stop the thumb sucking or to get rid of the pacifier.

    This TGuard seems to be amazing and the perfect solution. It is washable and the child can not remove it on their own. Brilliant. Liné

    1. Michelle Mussehl, RDH

      Line,

      The TGuard solution has been around for a long time and is very effective. The thumb sucking issue will usually correct itself between the ages of 2-4 without intervention. I would not be too concerned if your child sucks their thumb unless it is prolonged as they grow older. You will want to help your child stop this behavior before eruption of their permanent teeth. This will happen at age 6. A TGuard can help your child quickly and easily break this habit.

      Michelle

  3. Cathy

    I have seen a few young children sucking their fingers all the time especially while they were asleep. It’s odd because I’ve never encountered this when I was young. Just wondering, do plastic pacifiers help in this type of situation? Aren’t they supposed to create the same kind of satisfying feelings as thumb sucking?  

    1. Michelle Mussehl, RDH

      Cathy,

      Thumb sucking and finger sucking are essentially the same thing. They both can cause the same detrimental dental issues if the habit is prolonged after eruption of the permanent teeth. Many parents give pacifiers to their baby to soothe them. This is actually is a better way to deal with the habit. When I say better, what I am referring to is the ability to stop this behavior. It is easy to take a pacifier away from a child. However, you can not take away your child’s thumb!

      Thanks, 

      Michelle

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