Curly-haired young girl has a thumb sucking habit

How to Stop a Finger Sucking Habit

February 26, 2022 11:19 pm

Many babies and young toddlers suck their thumbs or other fingers. It’s a natural self-soothing technique that helps them relax or fall asleep. It’s not a good habit to maintain forever, though. So how do you help kids kick the habit?

When Children Shouldn’t Suck Their Fingers or a Pacifier

When kids are very young, don’t worry if they suck their fingers for comfort. By age 3, however, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that kids stop the habit. By age 4.5-5 years old, finger sucking can disrupt the position of permanent teeth. The front teeth can stick out, spaces can form between the front top and bottom teeth, or a crossbite can develop. Prolonged pacifier use can cause similar problems.

How to Help Your Child Stop Sucking Their Thumb or Fingers

  1. Talk to Your Child
  2. Compassionate and respectful communication is key. Let your child know that they’ll need to stop sucking their fingers soon. Explain in child-friendly terms that sucking their thumb can make them sick because of germs on their fingers and push their teeth into bad positions. Read children’s books or watch videos about the topic. Children are unlikely to immediately stop thumb-sucking after one conversation; be patient and gentle when reminding them.

  3. Use a Reward System
  4. Praise and positive reinforcement will encourage your child to follow through on your instruction. Sticker charts, extra bedtime stories, and verbal praise can all help your child through this process.

  5. Distract Them
  6. If kids are busy, they are less likely to find the time to suck their fingers. Pay attention to when your child indulges in the habit and give them something else to do. Coloring, crafting, and playing are good alternatives.

Kerrville Pediatric Dentistry

At Tots to Teens Pediatric Dentistry, we’re committed to providing exceptional dental care to kids and teenagers. Like adults, kids should visit the dentist twice a year for professional cleanings and exams. If you have questions about helping your child stop a thumb or finger sucking habit, or if you want to schedule their next appointment, please contact us today!

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