Thumb sucking is a natural reflex in babies and young children. It provides comfort and a sense of security, helping them to self-soothe. However, it’s important to be aware of when thumb sucking can become a concern. In this article, we will explore the risks associated with prolonged thumb sucking and provide gentle strategies to encourage your child to give up this habit.

The Risks of Prolonged Thumb Sucking

While many children naturally outgrow thumb sucking between the ages of two and four, some may continue this habit beyond that age. Prolonged thumb sucking, especially when forceful or frequent, can lead to potential issues:

  1. Dental problems: Continued thumb sucking after the permanent teeth have appeared can cause the teeth to become misaligned or crooked. The pressure exerted by the thumb can affect the proper alignment of the teeth, leading to orthodontic issues that may require correction later on.
  2. Speech development: Thumb sucking can also impact speech development, particularly with sounds like “s” and “th.” Prolonged thumb sucking can alter the position of the tongue and interfere with the proper formation of these sounds, potentially leading to speech defects.

Encouraging Your Child to Stop Thumb Sucking

Here are some gentle strategies to encourage your child to give up thumb sucking:

  1. Positive reinforcement: Acknowledge and praise your child when they refrain from thumb sucking, especially during challenging moments. Encouragement and rewards can motivate them to break the habit.
  2. Identify triggers: Pay attention to the situations or emotions that prompt your child to suck their thumb. By identifying these triggers, you can help them find alternative coping mechanisms or redirect their attention to other activities.
  3. Offer alternatives: Introduce alternative comforting strategies, such as a soft toy, a blanket, or a stress ball, that can serve as substitutes for thumb sucking. Encourage your child to use these alternatives when they feel the urge to suck their thumb.
  4. Involve your child: Engage your child in the decision to stop thumb sucking. Discuss the potential dental and speech-related issues that may arise and why it’s important to give up the habit. Help them understand the benefits of quitting and support their efforts to do so.
  5. Gloves at nighttime: One very effective way to help is to give your kid some soft, wool or cotton, gloves to wear at night. They will then be unable to get the suction on their thumb, which will help reduce the habit.
  6. Rewards: Offering a goal for them to achieve is often a good option to use in conjunction with something like wearing gloves (which helps provide them with a tool to stop sucking their thumb. We often suggest that a reward after 25 days then one after 55 days. By this point the habit might be broken completely.
  7. Dental professional guidance: Consult with your dentist for advice on how to address thumb sucking. They can provide personalised recommendations and strategies tailored to your child’s specific needs. They may suggest devices like thumb guards or offer guidance on proper oral hygiene practices.
  8. School-age concerns: If your child continues to suck their thumb by the end of their first year at school and efforts to stop have been unsuccessful, seeking advice from a dentist or pediatrician is recommended. In some cases, a referral to a child psychologist may be necessary to address any underlying emotional or behavioral factors contributing to thumb sucking.


Thumb sucking is a natural reflex that provides comfort to babies and young children. However, it’s important to be mindful of the risks associated with prolonged thumb sucking, such as dental problems and speech development issues. By gently encouraging your child to give up thumb sucking and seeking professional guidance when necessary, you can support their oral health and overall development. Remember, patience, positive reinforcement, and open communication are key elements in helping your child overcome this habit.

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(08) 9250 8844

2 Mellar Ct, Midland WA 6056 (map)