Parents often worry about their children’s thumbsucking and finger sucking habits, but most kiddos will quit on their own before their fifth birthday without doing any long-term damage to their teeth or jaws. However, some children continue their sucking habit beyond that point and require intervention to stop. If left unchecked, they can permanently alter the shape of their palates and the relationship between their upper and lower jaws. There are also social consequences as they may be subjected to teasing by their peers. There are several methods to stop your child’s sucking habit once and for all, and you may have to experiment to see what works best for him or her.
There are many products available at the drugstore that you can paint on the nail of your child’s thumb or fingers to discourage sucking. They are similar to nail polish, and typically taste very sour or bitter. They work very well for some children, and others will continue to suck and even learn to like the taste, so this method won’t work for everyone. The products are fairly inexpensive, but you do have to apply them nightly.
Thumb or Finger Guard
These are primarily worn at night and are highly effective at stopping sucking habits in most children. The guard is basically a plastic casing that goes around your child’s thumb or finger(s) and is held in place with a hospital-like wristband that your child cannot remove. You put the guard on your child at night and cut the bracelet off in the morning. It comes with a two-month supply of bracelets and you can order more if needed. We have these available at our office.
If the other methods are not successful, we can create a special appliance for your child that will stop their habit. It looks somewhat like a retainer and is cemented into place on their upper palate. It is not easily visible, and most children can talk and eat normally with the appliance in place. Your child will not be able to suck his or her thumb or fingers when the appliance is in place, and the habit will stop as long as it is left in for long enough. We usually recommend a minimum of 3-6 months before removal, and we suggest that parents keep the appliance somewhere safe in case there is a relapse and it needs to be re-cemented.
We would love to talk to you about stopping your child’s sucking habit at their next check-up, or you can schedule a special appointment sooner.