Too Old for Thumbsucking?

Thumbsucking is a familiar sight to many parents and caregivers. The habit is a natural reflex that often becomes a means of self-soothing or achieving a relaxed, secure state of mind. But when does thumbsucking become a problem for tooth development? How can you encourage your child to stop?

As a Brevard pediatric dental practice, Sunshine Smiles has seen many children that are habitual thumbsuckers. Thumbsucking often starts in infancy, but naturally discontinues by the time that the front baby teeth erupt—around one year old. If thumbsucking continues, however, the result can be misaligned or shifted teeth, typically known as “buckteeth.” This causes problems with oral hygiene, proper bite, but most importantly self-confidence. It even makes your teeth more prone to trauma.

So what can you do if your child just doesn’t want to give up this habit? At Sunshine Smiles Pediatric Dentistry, we recommend trying the following tactics:

  • Stop as early as possible – Stay strong, because this is a difficult habit to break, but a very important one to break early.
  • Address the root of the problem – Is your child stressed? Feeling insecure at times? Or does he or she need additional comfort? Find other ways of reassurance that replace this habit.
  • Give positive reinforcement – When your child refrains from thumbsucking, use stickers or a similar reward system to build a tangible record of progress your child can be proud of. Different methods work for different kids.
  • Appreciate your smile – Help your child appreciate how special their smile is and what effect thumbsucking can have on their teeth. Involve them in the commitment to become a ‘big kid’ and give up thumbsucking.

As partners in the dental health and wellbeing of your child, the team at Sunshine Smiles Pediatric Dentistry is dedicated to helping your child along the road to a happy smile. Use these tips as a way to establish good habits at home, and don’t neglect the treatment and support that comes from regular dental visits.