I often get asked by parents with younger children, if their sucking habit is harmful to their teeth. There is no easy way to answer this, as every child is so different. I would like to take this opportunity to explain what happens in the mouth when a child has a sucking habit. It may cause a variety of changes to the teeth including: 1. the top teeth become pushed out 2. The top and bottom teeth no longer overlap and create an “open bite”. An open bite is when there is a gap between the top and bottom teeth in the front, even though the molars are touching. 3. The sucking motion causes the upper jaw to narrow or constrict.

It is important to note that these conditions often resolve as soon as a child either stops or decreases their sucking habit. Ideally, a child would stop their sucking habit before the adult teeth erupt, which is typically between 5 and 6 years old. This works out for most children, as the social pressures of being in daycare, preschool, or kindergarten signals to them that they should not be sucking. It is important to bring your child to the dentist for routine care so that the Dentist can monitor and watch for any of these conditions to best help you and your little ones.

Lolo Pediatric Dentistry

Sucking Habit Facts:

For most children a sucking habit is a natural instinct or a way to self-comfort. For children that cannot express their emotions verbally yet, thumb sucking can be a way to cope with their emotions, comfort themselves and feel secure. You can try to keep notice of when and what triggers your child to start sucking their thumb or asking for the soother and replace it with other soothing methods. Once your child is old enough to talk you can try asking them questions about why they’re seeking comfort and help them find a new way to cope.

Some Tips to Help Discontinue Thumb Sucking and Soothers:

  1. Positive Reinforcement- Be supportive and positive, offering praise and comfort can help reinforce your child. When you remind you child to stop sucking their thumb and they listen, introduce an alternative way or object to be comforted, like a blanket or a stuffed animal.
  2. Bitter Polish- Painting on some bitter tasting nail polish can help encourage your little one to discontinue. If it tastes bad they wont want to reach for it and it can slowly help break the habit!
  3. Set Goals and be Patient- Nothing happens overnight so remember to stay calm, patient and give you child time! Do not force your child to go cold-turkey, be patient with them as this has likely become something they are very emotionally attached to.
  4. Create Daily Reminders- Verbally reminding your child each day and helping them remember to break the habit can create structure and routine to get them used to getting through the day without the habit.
  5. You can teach your child that weaning off of thumb sucking and using a soother is something “big kids” do and it is a normal part of growing up!