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5 Tips to Stop the Thumb Sucking Habit

added on: January 21, 2015
young toddler sucking their thumb

Thumb sucking, just like the use of a pacifier, can soothe, comfort, and make children feel safe. While thumb sucking is very natural for babies, it can lead to dental problems if the habit continues into the toddler stage. At our pediatric dental office in Long Island, we encourage our patients’ parents to urge their children to break the thumb sucking habit by age two.


The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry explains that thumb sucking places pressure on the soft tissue in the roof of the mouth and the sides of the top jaw. This may cause the top jaw to narrow, resulting in teeth not aligning properly from top to bottom. When teeth don’t line up, speech may be impaired and may require therapy. More so, additional dental work may be necessary in the future. If your child is two or older and still habitually sucking her thumb, here are some tips to help her stop.

  • Limit acceptable times to thumb suck. Explain to your child that thumb sucking is not appropriate to do during the day or in public. By limiting thumb sucking to bedtime or naptime, you’re helping your child slowly adjust to life without the thumb.
  • Reward, don’t scold. Children often thumb suck because they are nervous, anxious, or uncomfortable. By confronting them, their anxiety will increase, making it even harder to break the habit. Instead, praise them when they don’t suck.
  • Let them if they need to. In stressful situations, like when she gets hurt, aren’t the time to try to break her of the habit. If she’s full of anxiety and or scared, it’s completely acceptable for her to suck her thumb.
  • Use a favorite character. Pick a character your child is a fan of and get creative. Ask her questions like, “Do you think Mickey sucks his thumb?” or make powerful statements that let your child know her favorite character doesn’t, but that encourage her to choose not to suck on her own. Like, “I bet Agent Oso doesn’t suck his thumb.”
  • Talk it out. Let your child know that when she’s ready to stop, you’ll be there to help her. Feeling encouraged and like a part of a team may empower her to try to stop. You can also try talking to disrupt when she’s actually sucking. Sometimes, your child may not even realized what she’s doing. This is a great opportunity to bring it to her attention and work with her to find an alternative like a toy, blanket, or stuffed animal.

If your child is a thumb sucker, it’s even more important that we see her at our Long Island pediatric dental office early and often. We’ll monitor her mouth for any developmental problems and help get her smile back to health. If you’re struggling with breaking the thumb sucking habit, talk to us, we can help.

Serving pediatric patients from Long Island, Westbury, Nassau County, and neighboring areas.