Seek Advice on Stopping Thumb Sucking

Updated on March 31, 2009
K.B. asks from Euless, TX
31 answers

I have a 2 1/2 yr old boy who has been sucking his thumb basically since birth, he refused a pacifier and has always liked his thumb. He used to mainly suck his thumb when he was tired or needed comfort, but lately it seems like a automatic thing for him to stick his thumb in his mouth. After a visit with the dentist today, he told me that it is starting to greatly affect his teeth positioning, but if we could get him to stop, it could be reversed. Has anyone tried anything like the thumb covers or the polish you put on the thumbs and has it worked. The thumb covers are pretty expensive and I don't want to spend a lot of money if it won't work!

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R.A.

answers from Dallas on

You can take those inexpensive knit gloves, cut off just the fingers, and then decorate the thumb as a little doll. Have fun with it:)

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E.C.

answers from Dallas on

You may want to try socks first. I had overheard my dentist telling someone else this. You may want to try that route first before buying something so expensive.

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B.P.

answers from Dallas on

I also used the nail polish stuff on my daughter. She quit sucking her thumb 2 days later. Good luck

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C.T.

answers from Dallas on

I've always heard sucking the thumb is ok until 4 or 5 years old, but getting rid of the pacifier a bit earlier is recommended. How could it affect his teeth positioning when he doesn't have any permanent teeth and won't for several years? I sucked my thumb until I was 5 and I never even had braces and have very straight, healthy teeth. The more you make of it at this age, the more he is going to do it. I would just drop the issue because you can't very well take it away and he's going to suck his thumb when you are not around. Wrapping his elbow up like another mom said sounds kind of cruel to me. I think your dentist is going a little overboard about a 2 year old sucking his thumb. Sorry, but it's just my opinion.

1 mom found this helpful
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G.A.

answers from Dallas on

At CVS they have a No Bite that you put on like a polish. It does work but it will wear off and need to put it on again. My granddaughter bites her nails and when it is on they start to grow. Then she will conveniently not use it and she bites again but others told me it also works for adults. I would think the thumb cover also would not be comfortable and he would not be able to use it freely. G. W

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B.H.

answers from Amarillo on

Hi i was also a thumb sucker so was may oldest daughter and now my youngest nephew...my mom tired everything for me and nothing worked but what finally did is she bribed me with something and that worked...my daughter is 16y/o and she stopped sucking her thumb when she took a trip to New Jersey ... so far nothing is helping with my nephew until he came up here and spent last summer with him and i told him that he was a big boy and i better not catch that thumb in his mouth ... well he still did and when i caught him i told him that was a no no and that he needed to take it out because one day he will wind up biting his thumb off ... and every since then he hasnt sucked his thumb any more and thats been a year now and he is 7yrs

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K.D.

answers from Dallas on

I"ve been having the same issue with my 4 yr old and I have tried everything. The best thing I have found to working is the nail bitting polish. You can get it at Sally's. You have to reapply it often as the taste does wear off but it does work if you are consistent with keeping it on the nail.
Hope this helps and good luck.
K. D.
Flower Mound, TX

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W.E.

answers from Dallas on

I work for a pediatric dentist. It is to young to worry about it now. It is still a need for him to make him feel safe. If he continues to do it at an older age, then you can talk with your dentist about a thumb sucking appliance. It is just simply too early.

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E.R.

answers from Dallas on

My sin sucked with the polishvso I bought the thumbguard. Www.medetal.com. And it worked!! We talked about it, gave small rewards. And also printed a chuck e cheese reward chart and went there. Worry the investment fir us!

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J.P.

answers from Wichita Falls on

Buy them and try them. Orthondics is way more expensive, trust me. My neice had a pacifier until 3. She's 7 now and the orthodontist said to correct the problems in her mouth will take years and lots of money. Insurance isn't that much help since it only pays $2000 for life on their policy towards this type of work. Trust me, what you pay for now will be cheap compared to the cost of repair later.

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A.L.

answers from Dallas on

When my daughter was 2yrs old i did purchase a thumbguard on the [email protected]____.com They have colorful bracelets i let her pick out. You wear it non stop for 30 days. I was skeptical at first , it was pricey $80 at the time. They guaranteed it would work, so i had her wear it day and night for 30 days and 2wks took it off for baths but other than that she wore it consistently. When i took it off she did not suck her thumb. So yes it definately worked for me. She is now 4yrs old and has not had the habit since.

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K.H.

answers from Dallas on

My pediatric dentists said not to worry until my son started getting his big boy teeth, and my son stopped once he got a loose tooth around age 6. At that point he had only been sucking at bedtime, but now he doesn't at all anymore. Younger ages, he sucked off and on throughout the day and during pre-school hours as well. He turns 7 tomorrow. He does have an overbite, but so did I and I never sucked my thumb or had a pacifier. I am an occupational therapist and I whole-heartedly believe in respecting a child's need to self soothe through sucking. They do it in the womb! If a child has a need to suck his thumb - I think it is just that - a need. I think that's why many cultures are still nursing at this age. When he's older you can try to substitute with gum (such as spry with no artificial sweeteners or anything) not now for choking hazzard of course. Just some thoughts... I think sometimes the more you dry to block it - the more they do it because they need to self-calm because they are stressed out! :) good luck. he'll be okay.

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C.C.

answers from Dallas on

Two of my three children sucked their thumb, so speaking from experience I can tell you that you won't be successful if he's not interested in quitting. I'm surprised at your dentist for being such an alarmist, especially since we're talking about his baby teeth. The general rule of thumb (no pun intended!) is to stop the thumb sucking before the permanent teeth come in.

My oldest daughter first stopped thumb sucking when she was 4. No gizmos or gadgets . . . in the weeks leading up to her 4th b-day we just said that 4 year olds don't suck their thumbs (don't harp too much or it just makes them anxious, and make the comment as casual as possible). She actually did it, but then her sister was born about 4 months later and she reverted back to thumb sucking. She gave up thumb sucking during the day by the time she was 6 or 7, but night time was harder because she didn't know she was doing it. We finally broke that habit because she really wanted to stop, so we wrapped tape on her thumb.

For my now 9 year old, she was about 5-6 when she broke the habit. Again, she wanted to stop, so it made the process a whole lot easier. Again, daytime was easiest because she was aware and made a conscious decision to stop and we once again used the tape method for night.

Yes, they both wound up in braces, but their problems were quite different so it is hard to say if thumb sucking was the root cause of their tooth issues although it is more likely in my older daughter's case because she sucked her thumb so much longer.

I wouldn't recommend tape for a 2 1/2 year hold because he could wind up choking if he unconsciously put his thumb in his mouth with the tape on.

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M.M.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi K.,
My daughter used to suck her thumb intensively until she was 4 years old. We talked to her about how it afftected her teeth and her finger (that poor thing was half of the size of his peer and all wrinkled!). We put on fancy band-aids that reminded her not to suck it. The first couple of days were hard but she made it. She is 12 today and there isn't any consequence on her teeth nor her thumb.
You might want to try by short periods then increase the "pause" time. Rewards such as stickers or toys could help motivate him.

Good luck!
QA

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A.G.

answers from Dallas on

My daughter is about to turn 4 and I am in the same boat. I see that one person wrote in asking how it could impact teeth and I can tell you now at 4 I see how it can. The positioning of her thumb in her mouth is changing the shape of her bite. I think of it as an alligator's mouth-- very elongated, more like a V than a U shaped bite. I wish I had been more consistent when she was your son's age.

It is a hard, hard habit to break! I tried limiting it to when she is sleepy, sad or sick. Now if she is sucking her thumb and I catch her, she is suddenly sad or sick. She is smart and determined. She is also adopted, and her birthmom who is about to graduate from college STILL sucks the same thumb when she is stressed out. I think there is some genetics to it!

Anyway, if you come up with a great solution, I would love to hear it. Mine does not care about stopping- I think peer pressure will probably eventually do the trick, but a year and a half still from kindergarten, I think we are a ways from that!

Good luck to you!
A.

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K.H.

answers from Dallas on

my friend used the stuff that you put on nails to get people to stop biting them, she just put it all on the thumb & it worked within a couple of days.

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A.W.

answers from Dallas on

It took a year but I kept asking him to stop sucking his thumb and then I would point out that Daddy, Spiderman, Batman, and his brother don't suck there thumb so why does he.

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C.H.

answers from Dallas on

My mom used cayenne pepper to get me to stop when I was little. From what I understand, she would pull my thumb out of my mouth, sprinkle a little cayenne pepper on it, and walk away. She said it didn't take many applications for me to stop (I did switch to other fingers though, so she just did the same thing to those digits too).

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L.H.

answers from Dallas on

I agree with Christine C. and several of the other posters/ Two of my four kid were thumb suckers and both dentists in the practice told me not to worry about it until they started losing their baby teeth. It's easier to break when they are older and can understand. A 2 yo just doesn't have the kind of self control that it takes to make that happen. I think if you are going to break it now, you are going to have to use an appliance of some sort. I'd start with the thing that goes on the thumb, it's cheaper than the thing that goes in the roof of their mouth. Good luck!

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A.L.

answers from Dallas on

Honestly I have no idea how to get them to stop. I have been trying to get my 3 1/2 yr. old to stop as well. I have tried a reward chart, Thumz, finger nail polish, bandades. Nothing has been working. My next step is taping her thumb down. I know they make those things that fit over the thumbs but I have not tried those yet. If you figure something out please let me know. Thanks and good luck to you.

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D.C.

answers from Dallas on

Advice from a great grandma with lots of thumbsucking experience!
I agree with Christine and I think your dentist just wants to make more money.
Mine told me not to worry until the perm. teeth started coming in. He said even then most braces are required due to jaw malformations. The normal lip and tongue pressure are designed to keep the teeth in place.
At 2 1/2 he still needs his thumb for comforting himself. Only once in all my years have I known a child to sit in class with his thumb in his month.
Good luck and God bless you.
Great Grandma D.

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L.G.

answers from Dallas on

A bandaid worked for us.

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C.M.

answers from Dallas on

My 5 1/2 yr old daughter has now gone 11 days without sucking her thumb. She just got strep again for the 3rd time since October so that is one her motivations. I told her she keeps getting sick because keeps sticking her fingers in her mouth. She's older, but you could probably modify what we tried. We printed a chart off of a website (I can dig up the link if you want it). For every week that she goes she gets a reward. The first week was a Webkinz which she has been begging for for months. This week will be new Hannah Montana bedding. We went ahead and bought the prizes so she could see them sitting on the shelf as a reminder. So far, it's worked great. We started out putting bandaids on her thumbs so it would remind her. After a few days of that, the thumb suck stuff came in to the pharmacy so we've done that. I would suggest doing both since yours is younger. Best of luck!

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K.S.

answers from Dallas on

I had two thumbsuckers. One was sucking her thumb in the ultrasound picture. She did not need orthodontia, but we have spent a fortune on cosmetic dentistry to correct dental problems. The other daughter did need orthodontia which gave her a beautiful set of teeth which now need dental work as well.

The older child quit on her own before school. She never liked her teeth because her front teeth were crooked and short like mine. She's the one who has had extensive cosmetic surgery which was not elective. Her sucking behavior was when she was tired or sick and needed comfort.

The younger child sucked her thumb until she was about 8, but she never sucked her thumb in school. When I'd pick her up after school, the first thing she'd do is pop that thumb in her month. Her sucking behavior was a matter of focussing on something intently.

I didn't want to make a big deal of the thumb sucking. I felt it was better to let them do their thing and deal with the consequences.
The younger child had an admiration for a youngster in her pre-school class whose teeth were all silver. She used to make braces for herself with paperclips, so having braces was not a big deal for her. Compared to what's been spent on teeth since, it was relatively inexpensive.

The older child wanted straight teeth but hated the idea of braces. As it turned out she broke off one of her upper front incisors which lead to two crowns and while we were at it why not do the veneers and take care of the crooked teeth. We're still paying on it, but she's got beautiful teeth. (The younger one has beautiful teeth, too, but she was born with them.)

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C.B.

answers from Dallas on

Hi,
I sucked my thumb until I was 8 or 9- I'm now 30! Nothing my parents did would make me stop- they used somesort of idsgusting nail polish(made for thumb suckers) and they also used tabasco sauce- it only worked until it wore off. I only sucked my thumb at night but my parents made me push my teeth back with my thumb during the day, which seemed to work. I have never had braces and my teeth are aligned fine.
I think if you start reminding him that he is a big boy now and have him take his thumb out of his mouth when he is awake- it will help stop the habit of when he is sleeping too. Maybe have some activity that you do with him that involves both hands so he can't put his thumb in his mouth- like a clapping game or playing playdough.
good luck!
~C.

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S.A.

answers from Dallas on

I started the nail polish on my daughter when she turned 5 and still had her thumb in her mouth. She got so hysterical (because of the bad taste, was running to the sink to spit all the time) that I capitulated and stopped. I should have NEVER done that! She will be 8 this summer and still sucks her thumb constantly. She doesn't do it at school (afraid to be teased), but everywhere else, including the car to and from school. She has asked me to buy Thumbguard for her to use this summer on summer break because she wants to stop but can't. I will spend the money on it because she has just lost her two upper front baby teeth and I do NOT want to have dental problems with the adult teeth because of the thumb-sucking, plus I am sick and tired of it. The nail polish doesn't work anymore, she just brushes her teeth to get rid of the bad taste in her mouth.

No amount of tempting her with expensive gifts has been able to make her stop; I think it must be like smoking - extremely difficult to stop. I do not believe my daughter could stop on her own full-time without help, this is ingrained in her. (But she also had severe colic for 6 months and sucking her thumb was the *only* thing that gave her any comfort, so we never tried to stop her from it.)

I wish you the best of luck. I know it's hard to get them to stop, but for your son's sake, I would say try to get him to stop now rather than hoping he'll stop later. It is so much harder to break the habit the longer you wait. And he runs the risk of being teased if he still does it when he starts school.

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M.B.

answers from Lubbock on

My son is 4, he started sucking his thumb after he gave up his pacifier. He has not and apparently will not stop. I have tried everything under the sun and none of it works. Fortunately, our pedi dentist said that at this point there has been no structural damage done. Thank goodness. He said in his many years of experience, the best thing that works is gentle reminders, ie. where's your thumb, what's in your mouth, thumb out, or maybe finding a chewey of some sort for him to have in his mouth rather than his thumb. Most importantly, be gentle and disparaging. Sorry there has not been anything we have tried that works. They need the comfort, for whatever reason and the thumb that is always with them, provides that....and personally, I think over time it just becomes a habit and we know how hard those are to break. BEST OF LUCK TO YOU....AND YOUR SON!

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A.H.

answers from Dallas on

I sucked my thumb from infant until I was 8 yrs old (mostly at night from 7-8yrs old) and have perfectly straight teeth...I really do not think you have anything to worry about. I am 50 now and my teeth are still great. I drink milk every morning & have done so for as long as I can remember. Calcium may be the key, I am not sure. I know that there was this nasty tasting orange colored solution that my mom would put on my thumb, I would just suck it off until it did not taste so bad & continue.

I know they have a lot of remedies out there to try, but it will not change the urge to have that "comfort feel" that comes with thumb sucking. I had a regular upbring, no issues which triggered the need to suck my thumb, it just felt right and comforted me. I know that I am probably not much help, but I hope that you (and other moms reading & commenting to you with the same issue) find comfort in knowing it did not affect my teeth and to me was a natural act for a child.

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S.B.

answers from Dallas on

My BIL is a third year dental student. I have a thumb sucker who I worry about too. My BIL told me if he doesn't stop on his own or the habit gets worse (right now he only does it when he is sleepy or upset) to try an ace bandage. I haven't tried it yet, but he said putting it around the elbow will make it uncomfortable for him to bend his elbow to suck his thumb. It was suggested to fasten it with diaper pins, because many crafty kids figure out how to undo the hooks. It may look a little silly, but I imagine it's one of the cheaper alternatives.

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S.W.

answers from Dallas on

Hi K.,

My daughter sucked her thumb from birth also. She is now 14 years old. The dentists told me not to worry about the thumb sucking until she turned 5 years old. At 5 the dentist put a retainer in her mouth, she was fussy for 1 night....she never sucked her thumb again. The retainer was in for 6 months.

A little about me I am the proud Mother of 2 gilrs a 14yr old and a 3 1/2yr old and the wife of super husband and wonderful DAD.

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L.W.

answers from Dallas on

There's a device that the orthodentist can insert in the roof of the child's mouth. Might try surfing the net for stop thumb sucking ideas.

Good luck.

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