Encouraging your toddler to stop sucking his thumb

My two and a half year old sucks his thumb. He has pushed his lower jaw back and his top teeth protrude. How can I can stop this habit?

Question:

Getting children to stop sucking on thumbs, fingers or pacifiers can be a very challenging undertaking. Sometimes it takes several tries until you find a technique that works.

You may find that the reward method works. If you try this technique, give your son plenty of time to get used to the idea of quitting. For example, tell him in a few months, when he's three, he won't need to suck his fingers anymore. If he accomplishes this, you will reward him with something significant as an incentive to quit.

Another technique is the aversion method. You could paint on a bitter substance that is made for this purpose.

Though, obviously this would not be a first choice, or the right choice at all for some families, there are some dental appliances that can be made and placed in a child's mouth. These usually have a type of grid or guard so a finger or thumb cannot be placed in the mouth or the sucking motion cannot be made.

It is also important when using any of these techniques to explain why you are encouraging your child to stop finger/thumb sucking.

If your son continues to suck on his fingers as he grows, and his jaw and permanent teeth develop, this can have a significant effect on the growth of his jaws and the placement of his permanent teeth. The most common problem we see is an "open" bite in the front, where there is a gap between his upper and lower teeth. Also, the upper teeth can be tipped out and separated, while the lower teeth get pushed back. If this happens, your son would need orthodontics to correct the problem.

Good luck in your attempts to curtail this difficult habit.

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