Thumb Sucking :: Help Your Child Break the Habit


Thumb Sucking :: Help Your Child Break the Habit | Wichita Moms BlogThank you to our friends at Smith Orthodontics for sponsoring this post and for offering top-notch dental and orthodontic care for Wichita families!

Thumb sucking is a normal behavior that many infants and toddlers use for comfort and security. For a young child without permanent teeth, this habit often has little to no effect on the child’s alignment of teeth or skeletal structure. According to the American Dental Association, most children break their thumb sucking habit on their own between the ages of 2-4. However, after permanent teeth begin to erupt in the mouth, thumb sucking can become more harmful, requiring orthodontic correction in the future.

The Effect of Thumb Sucking on Teeth

While seemingly innocent, thumb sucking after permanent teeth begin to erupt exerts pressure on the gums of the teeth. Depending on the severity of the thumb sucking, the pressure can prevent proper development of the mouth, alignment of teeth or formation of the jaw. Here are the most common effects of thumb sucking:

Open Bite – The upper teeth are prevented from erupting into the mouth, causing the upper and lower front teeth not to overlap when the back teeth are touching.

Crossbite – Because of excessive force of the thumb onto the roof of the mouth over an extended period of time, the palate begins to narrow.

Protruding Upper Teeth – Upper teeth begin to protrude forward because the thumb exerts pressure on the back of teeth. If the habit persists long enough the jaw itself can also begin to protrude, changing the skeletal structure of the face.

Tipped-back Lower Teeth – The opposite of protruding upper teeth, lower teeth begin to tip-back toward the tongue rather than down due to the excessive pressure of the thumb.

How to Break the Habit of Thumb Sucking

Many children suck their thumb to sooth boredom, hunger, tiredness and stress. Here are some tips and tricks to minimize damage to your child’s teeth.

  1. Offer positive reinforcement often to equip them with the ability to stop on their own.
  1. Restrain negative reinforcement if possible, because this can cause significant stress to your child which may prolong the habit.
  1. Offer a pacifier as a thumb replacement. While a pacifier will not cause any less damage, it is easier to monitor and control.
  1. Purchase a cotton gardening glove and cut out all of the fingers off except the thumb. Place the glove on your child before they go to sleep as a reminder. Using a Band-Aid on the thumb or an appliance such as Thumbsters or Dr. Thumb Guard are also options.
  1. Seek professional help if problem persists. Dr. Brian would happy to discuss options for an appliance that can be placed in the mouth to assist your child in breaking their habit.

Smith FamilyDr. Brian’s orthodontic dream began when he was just five years old. A few decades later, he is now thrilled to pick up the torch and carry on his dad’s 30-year legacy of orthodontic excellence in Wichita.

After receiving his dental degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2007, Dr. Brian was accepted into an advanced education program where he completed a year of specialized dental training. He then moved on to an internship with the world-renowned Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic in Pennsylvania. In 2011, Dr. Brian received his orthodontic certificate and Master’s degree from Indiana University. The combination of these distinctive experiences has developed Dr. Brian into a well-rounded orthodontist who strives for “more than a smile” with each patient he sees. Passionate about helping those in need in our community and across the world, Dr. Brian has volunteered in several public health clinics and has also taken dental outreach trips to Central and South America.

Dr. Brian has been married to his wife, Emily (also a Wichita native), since 2005.  They welcomed their first child, Boone Robert in 2011 and Vera Noelle in 2014. They are also proud parents to two golden retrievers. After many years away from home, they are grateful to settle in Wichita and serve the city they love.

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