The Ins and Outs of Thumb Sucking – How to Kick the Habit!

Choosing the right time to give up thumb, finger or dummy sucking is important. Choose a time to break the habit when you and your child are not experiencing excessive stress or change in your lives, such as the arrival of a new sibling, a family move, or starting a new school. Children use sucking to relieve stress, and trying to quit during a stressful time increases the chances of failure.

Infants have strong and pre-determined sucking reflexes. Finding an object to suck on is an extension of this normal behavior and infants associate it with warmth and safety. Endorphins and dopamine produced in the brain during sucking give babies pleasure and comfort.

About 90 percent of infants in Western cultures engage in what's termed "non-nutritive sucking" (or sucking for purposes other than feeding), on thumbs, fingers, dummies, blankets, or other objects. About half of these children will stop on their own by six or seven months of age but as many as one-third will continue beyond the preschool years.

It is important that your child is ready to give up thumb sucking. Your child needs to understand why it is a bad habit and this will help them choose to kick the habit.

Problems can start in the preschool years. Dental Professionals generally become concerned when the adult teeth begin to erupt. In most children, this is around five years of age. Prolonged and vigorous sucking can affect the normal growth and development of the jaws and nasal cavity, speech and breathing. One of the most common dental problems is an anterior open bite where upon closing the mouth, there is a gap between the upper and lower front teeth. Other negative effects include changes in the shape of the palate (roof of the mouth), an overset (the upper front teeth are considerably further forward than they should be), an incorrect swallow pattern and mouth breathing. Some children have a trigger associated with thumb sucking. These can include, a blanket, stuffed animal, playing with one’s hair or mother’s hair and nail biting. The first step is to remove the trigger in a nonthreatening and positive manner. If your child stops thumb sucking by five years of age, there will most likely be no problems. Many Myofunctional Clinics provides fun and friendly programs to help your child kick the habit. Thumb and finger sucking habits are so subconscious that it is important to provide positive reinforcement and motivation for your child. Negative comments may lead to a hidden guilty pleasure. Another option is the use of a TGuard. This product line includes the original, patented ThumbGuard™ device and FingerGuard™ device, and has been a favourite of Dentists, Paediatricians, and Parents since 1995. Why? Because it works. Rather than trying to prevent thumb sucking, the patented technology allows it: but without the suction that creates the pleasure. If you break the suction, you break the habit! With a success rate greater than 95%, it is the most recommended product, in its class, on the market. Further details are available from

This article was written by Dr Derek Mahony, Specialist Orthodontist. Full Face Orthodontics Pty Ltd

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