According to the American Dental Association (ADA), if the child quits before they get their permanent teeth, thumb sucking most likely will not cause any dental problems. Nonetheless, it’s better to start now rather than waiting. Permanent teeth can start to come in around the age of 6. Not only do you want to preserve the health of your child’s permanent teeth, you also want to preserve the health and safety of your child. Toddlers habitually touch everything and the first place the hands and fingers go are towards their mouth. The last place they need to put their nasty fingers is anywhere in their mouth. I get an icky feeling just thinking about it. It’s better to start the process now. Here’s a little advice to help you along the way.
(1) First, have a talk with your child. Explain that big kids don’t suck their thumbs and that doing so will ruin the way their pretty (girls) or handsome (boys) teeth. Try placing a Band-Aid on their thumb to remind them. Hopefully they won’t bypass the band-aid by sucking it too.
(2) One old school way is to paint your child’s thumb with lemon juice or a bitter solution like Mavala Stop-Nail Biting and Thumb Sucking Prevention sold at stores both online and off for this purpose. If your child sucks their thumb in their sleep, try putting a mitten or sock on their hand while they’re sleeping.
(3) Another great method is to praise your child. If you see your child without his/her thumb in their mouth, make a huge deal out of it. You can also give a tiny reward if you choose. Just make sure the process doesn’t upset your child and make it as fun and rewarding as possible. We want to break the habit, not your toddler’s spirit.
Additionally, there will be times when changes in your toddlers life will occur. This includes starting a new preschool, family changes (i.e., having another baby), potty training, etc. Again, making a game out of the process while equally reducing the amount of thumb sucking takes away the sole focus to “stop thumb sucking” away from the child. It simply makes it fun.
If all else fails, give your family’s dentist a call. They can suggest an over-the-counter solution or possibly recommend a mouthpiece that makes thumb sucking unachievable. Remember, if your toddler is a few years from the age of 6, you still have time. Just make sure you plan to help your child stop thumb sucking rather sooner than later. You and your child will be thankful you did!