Finger Chewing and Sucking

Updated on October 31, 2012
S.H. asks from Fort Smith, AR
5 answers

Does anyone have tips on how to get a child who is almost 10 to stop putting their fingers in their mouth? He is licking, chewing, and sucking on them. Husband and I have both talked with our son and explained how doing this bad habit will possibly make him sick and how it can
cause dental problems as well. There is nothing going on in his life to be causing him anxiety, so I am at a loss. Any ideas???

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answers from Washington DC on

Because of his age, have him evaluated by an occupational therapist. He may need to have some form of oral stimulation (chewing, sucking) in order to to concentrate. Does he do this in school? While doing homework? During tests? Does he suck on pencils, chew on erasers too? Does he have his fingers in his mouth whenever he's concentrating on anything? He may be like my friend's son, who actually has an independent education plan document with the school, allowing him (because his occupational therapist said it's needed) to chew on specific items during class. It helps him focus and concentrate much better.

The need to chew or suck is very strong in some kids and is more than just a "bad habit that needs breaking" -- it's a hard-wired need in their psyches, so please don't shame him, punish him or fuss at him. Instead, I'd get him to an OT who is very experienced with elementary-aged kids and ask if he possibly needs this kind of oral or other help. Kids do often outgrow thiis with occupational therapy help so it won't be forever but kids like this also often still chew gum a lot as they get older. But again, get him evaluated rather than telling him how bad this is for him. Yes, it's not great, but it just may not be a bad habit.

The things my friend's son gets to chew on, by the way, are specific, approved "chewies" that are sold especially for kids with this kind of oral need, and the teacher is supposed to let him use them during class.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

You haven't mentioned whether your child has sensory processing disorder, as these answers address. My daughter is 10 and sucks her thumb when she is tired. I've tried many things to get her to stop, but she only does it at home and when she's tired. But I just wanted to address the issue of dental problems. I sucked my thumb until I was 7 and I was the only person in my family who didn't require braces. By sucking my thumb, I expanded my palette naturally and made room for all my teeth. It turns out, my daughter has done the same thing. I want her to stop sucking her thumb, but the chewing necklaces wouldn't help in her situation. Talk to your dentist about whether or not it's causing damage and ask about appliances they may offer in his particular situation. Also, I wouldn't assume there's nothing to cause anxiety -- 3rd and 4th grade are difficult years in a lot of subjects at school and socially, kids become more aware of their position in the social strata. If you're unaware of stress, it may be because he's not talking about it, and if he's not talking about it, it may be that sucking on his fingers is an outlet for that stress. Just the thoughts of an old thumb sucker and a mom of a thumb sucker.


answers from Grand Forks on

I would try one of the special necklaces they make for kids to chew on, or allow him to chew gum.



answers from Dallas on

The book "A parents guide to Everything Sensory Processing" has a great section on finger and thumb sucking. For SPD kids, this is very soothing and provides input to the finger joints. What it emphasized is that breaking a child from thumb or finger sucking is as difficult for a child as giving up smoking is for a smoker. It goes on to say it's actually MORE difficult than giving up smoking because it's attached and always available and there is no patch available to help break the habit. It recommends chewing gum and lollipops as tools to help give up finger sucking but emphasizes that you have to be willing to let them have these non-stop or whenever they feel the least urge. It didn't have any great suggestions on stopping it, as much as it gave an explanation of why it's so darn hard to break the habit.

Sherri G has a good suggestion. There is something called "chewelry" designed for kids to chew on as a replacement for fingers or chewing collars. Might be worth checking.



answers from Topeka on

Mine is 3 began the 2 finger sucking when she was in the hospital @ 2 months,but it's follwed by holding the other hand againgt the fingers it's a habit that will break but not soon enough.I have spoken to the dentist about it won't do anything,the pediatrician says to let it go there is nothing wrong with my child that it is attached as annoying it is to see it all day long it will be gvwn up when child is ready to.Now here is my approach we do say get your fingers out of your mouth on a reg. basis//I have asked are you ready to give up finger sucking I as your mother will help you theni'll apply tape around both fingers for about 10 min this is the non adhesive kind bandage then remove it.It is attrached will be so much easier if it were a paci.But I have never heard of it being connected to a sensory processing disorder probably because it doesn't apply to us

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