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Thumb Sucking in Toddlers

by T Akery | May 2nd, 2012 | Infants/Toddlers

Some toddlers will develop the habit of sucking on their thumbs. Not all toddlers are going to develop this type of self-comforting habit. But it is completely normal to find your toddler sucking their thumb more than you think they should. Dealing with thumb sucking can be a huge battle. Unfortunately, it is one of the battles that you need to fight, because the habit can hurt the development of growing mouths and can disrupt the growth of teeth.

Before you begin this particular battle, consult your pediatrician first. They need to check out any potential damage done to your toddler’s mouth. They may recommend a visit to a pediatric dentist if they see any potential problems with development. The dentist may also prescribe a mouth guard to help with thumb sucking that occurs at night.

Because toddlers are so different, it is often a method of trial and error to figure out what works specifically for your toddler. So while advice can be good, it isn’t always going to work. Be prepared to face defeat a couple of times before you succeed.

Pay attention to the times that your toddler turns to their thumb for comfort. This is going to help you anticipate what particular procedure is going to work better for your toddler. Is it when they are tired? Is it when someone new comes in the house? Is it when they are bored with their toys? Is it when they are upset? By answering these types of questions, you can anticipate when you need to employ some tactics in stopping their habit. You can also help reduce their stress levels at those times when they need that type of comfort.

One tactic you can use to discourage the practice is to paint their nails with a food substance that tastes really bad. This will give them a negative reinforcement every time they put their thumbs in their mouth. You may have to reapply it several times until they realize that their thumb won’t ever taste good again. Just make sure to check the ingredients so you aren’t picking up something that they might be allergic to.

Another thing you can do, as a temporary method, is to cover their thumbs with gloves or a cap. With this method, you would also need to teach them some coping methods on how to deal with stress without their thumb. The type of coping method you need is going to depend on what type of things trigger their desire to suck their thumb.

For nighttime thumb sucking, you will need to get their mouth sized for a night guard by their pediatric dentist. Unfortunately, this is one item you really can’t pick up at the store because the mouth guards there are going to be way too big for a comfortable fit.

Thumb sucking can be a hard habit to break. But it is important to break it so their mouth and teeth can develop properly.

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