How to Help Your Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb

For most children, thumb sucking is a natural instinct. Occasionally stemming as far back as their time in the womb, thumb sucking is the easiest way for young kids to self-soothe in times of stress or discomfort.

Unfortunately, the longer a child sucks their thumb, the more pronounced the damage to their teeth and mouth is likely to be over time. So how can you help your child avoid a future full of braces and other expensive (and often uncomfortable) oral appliances intended to correct the damage?

The best way to prevent permanent damage to the oral structures inside the mouth is to help your child wean themselves off of sucking their thumb. Here are a few tips to help you help your child keep their teeth straight, their jaws aligned, and their smiles bright!


stop sucking thumb

Before you attempt to force your child to stop sucking their thumb, it’s important that you sit down with them and explain why they need to give it up. No matter how old (or young) a person is, they’re far more likely to work with you if you take the time to explain the problem to them rather than forcing their hand (pun intended.)

Let your child know that sucking their thumb can cause serious permanent damage to their teeth, jaws, and oral palate and work with them to come up with solutions together.


stop thumb sucking

Depending on how young your child is, it might be tricky for them to understand the gravity of the situation and why it’s so vital they stop sucking their thumb sooner rather than later. This is where the internet (and specifically YouTube) comes in.

Rather than just trying to describe the problem in words they can understand, show them exactly what happens over time when they keep sucking their thumb. Empower them and educate them so they can be the ones to make the decision to quit (which in turn increases their likelihood of succeeding.)


stop thumb sucking

Rather than scolding your child and making them feel ashamed of failure, reward your child when they do well. And you don’t have to give your child a physical reward in order to practice positive re-enforcement; the next time you see them reflexively put their thumb in their mouth, give them a chance to correct the behaviour on their own.

If they remember to remove their thumb, praise them and let them know you’re proud of them. Failure is to be expected from time to time and your child shouldn’t feel like they need to hide that from you.


stop thumb sucking

Thumb sucking is often a self-soothing behaviour that children adopt in order to comfort themselves. Talk to your child and try to figure out the root cause of their discomfort. Often, by alleviating whatever is causing your child’s anxiety or insecurity, you remove the stimulus that triggers the thumb sucking behaviour in the first place.

Think of your child sucking their thumb as their own personal safety blanket; if you can figure out what’s stressing them out and alleviate that stress, you can cut the thumb sucking off right at the source.


stop thumb sucking

If your child is still struggling to quit sucking their thumb, then there are an array of products available to help them. From bad tasting ‘nail polish’ (originally invented to help people stop biting their nails) to thumb guards, there are a number of different methods to choose from to assist your child with keeping their thumb out of their mouth.

Just be aware that there’s a very fine line to be drawn here and that your child should give their complete consent to trying the products out. Forcing your child not to suck their thumb against their will won’t end well for anyone. This is why the first step is so important. Talk to your child. Make sure you’re both on the same page and come up with a strategy together.


stop thumb sucking

The best thing you can do to help a child who is struggling to stop sucking their thumb (or who has no interest in stopping) is to book an appointment with a dentist. At Archer Dental, our team is equipped to come up with the best possible treatment plan to suit your child’s unique needs.

We also offer Myobrace. Myobrace focuses on treating the underlying causes of crooked teeth and under or overdeveloped bites by gently re-aligning and correcting your child’s bite before permanent damage can be done. When used as prevention, Myobrace can eliminate the need for braces and improve your child’s quality of life as a whole. You can learn more about Myobrace and how it works right here.