It’s fairly normal to see babies and toddlers sucking on their thumbs or fingers, but as they get older, you want to discourage this kind of behavior, for emotional, social, and physical reasons. But figuring out how to stop finger sucking can be tricky for some parents with insistent children and for already sleep-deprived and harried parents, sometimes it can just feel easier to let your kid put his or her fingers back in their mouth to keep them quiet. However, thumb sucking can have negative effects as your child ages that really does make stopping it at an early age important. Let’s talk about why working to stop finger sucking in children is beneficial, how you can get your child to stop thumb sucking, and where you can find anti thumb sucking devices.
Why Should I Discourage My Child From Sucking on His or Her Thumb?
Around 95% of babies suck their thumbs reflexively, but after the child turns two, it’s more of a habit than a reflex. Around 10% of kids will keep on sucking their thumb after they reach the age of two or three and 5% continue to do so after the age of four or five. At this point (age four), it’s generally considered the best to deter your child from sucking on their thumb, says the American Dental Association.
Why? Thumb sucking can affect how your child’s teeth come in — and even jaw growth — resulting in open bites, overbites, and underbites in some cases. Given that teeth are the the thing that Americans feel most insecure about after their weight, you want to do all you can to keep your kid’s teeth looking perfect. Furthermore, over three-quarters of kids’ overbites and underbites have been well served by early intervention.
Furthermore, thumbsucking has been related to speech impairments. Around 5% of kids will have some kind of speech disorder by the time they reach the fifth grade. Additionally, as kids start crawling around, and putting their hands on all manner of surfaces, they’re more prone to pick up bacteria and other unsavory germs that will go straight into their mouths. The average person has over 3,000 bacteria on their hands, and kids can have way more.
How Can I Get Them to Actually Do It?
In some cases, telling your child why they shouldn’t suck their thumb and then offering positive feedback (like a treat or praise) after they don’t do it can break the habit. If your child is sucking his or her thumb when they’re anxious, bored, or antsy, notice when this is occurring and try to distract them or comfort them, depending on what the situation is. If they’re teething, find something to distract those little hands (like chewelry) and relieve the pain.
If it’s proving particularly difficult to break your child of their thumbsucking habit, there are thumbsucking appliances that can help stop finger sucking. TGuards and other appliances have an effectiveness rate around 90% when it comes to breaking children’s thumbsucking habits.
Where Can I Find Anti-Thumb Sucking Devices?
There’s a wealth of options online if you need to resort to anti-thumb sucking devices to stop finger sucking in your child. You’ll want to look for ones that are dentist-approved, to make sure there’s no negative dental repercussions for trading out a thumb for a device.
Big box stores that sell baby clothes and other baby-related items may also carry a selection of anti-thumb sucking devices. In extreme situations, an orthodontist may be asked to install a dental device like a hay rake or palatal crib, both of which can be uncomfortable and cost considerably more than other options available on the market.
As you can see from the above information, it’s important to stop finger sucking in your child at an early age. Pay attention to when (and why) they’re sucking on their thumbs and find ways to gently discourage them from doing so. Provide plenty of positive feedback, rewards, and if necessary, there are always anti-sucking devices.