How to Prevent Thumb Sucking

August 28, 2018

Thumb sucking is a completely natural habit babies are born with and is, in fact, a habit almost all children will develop at one point or another in their lives. Since sucking on either a nipple or bottle is how babies initially eat, it’s an action that seems to be more of a natural instinct rather than a learned habit. But why, then, do parents seem to panic when they learn their child is a thumb-sucker?

Thumb Sucking By The Numbers

According to some studies:

  • Roughly 95% of babies are thumb suckers
  • About 10% of children will suck their thumb past the age of two or three years
  • Roughly 5% of children still have the habit past the age of four or five years

Effects on Teeth and Jaw Development

Thumb sucking truly only becomes an issue for concern for the 5% who will suck their thumbs past early childhood. Once adult teeth begin to come in, continued thumb sucking can cause permanent teeth to shift out of position. Upper front teeth tend to be pushed outward, while lower front teeth are pushed inward, which may need to be corrected later in life with braces or other treatments from your Greater Salt Lake Area orthodontic provider.

In more severe cases, continued thumb sucking can cause the jaw to be reshaped, since it’s still growing and developing at this stage in your child’s life. It may also impede proper growth and formation of the palette, which can cause issues speaking, chewing, and swallowing.

Prevention Tips from Your Salt Lake City Braces Provider

Thankfully, there are ways to break this habit if your child has not done so naturally by the proper age:

  • Since thumb sucking at later ages tends to be a stress-relieving habit, first consider whether there are changes that could be made around your home to improve your child’s environment, promoting calm and relaxation.
  • Replace the thumb with a different object, such as a pacifier. This can make the habit easier to give up, and is a far more hygienic option.
  • Talk to your child and try to explain why they shouldn’t suck their thumb. Give them physical reminders, such as gloves or bandages, and reward them when they respond well to them. A little positive reinforcement can go a long way!
  • A slightly more extreme, but still effective option, is the “bad taste” method, which uses a bitter tasting cream or even nail polish applied to the thumb to deter thumb sucking.

No matter which option you choose, it’s important to do your best to help your child understand why you’re doing it, and always reward them for exhibiting progress.

Learn More From Your Greater Salt Lake Orthodontic Provider

If you have questions about your child’s thumb sucking habits, please feel free to reach out to your trusted Salt Lake City orthodontic provider at Utah Orthodontic Care. Our knowledgeable staff would be happy to answer questions and provide further information. UOC has many convenient locations throughout the Salt Lake City area and provide a variety of orthodontic treatments from braces to ClearCorrect for patients of all ages. What are you waiting for? Contact us today!