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Health Tip: Break the Habit of Thumb Sucking

-- Babies and young children satisfy the natural reflex to suck by sucking on pacifiers, fingers or thumbs. However, thumb sucking can affect the alignment of permanent teeth as they grow in.

While most children will stop the habit on their own between the ages of 2 and 4, others may need help. Here are suggestions to help your child stop sucking his or her thumb, courtesy of the American Dental Association:

  • Don't scold the child when they do suck the thumb, but praise him or her when they aren't doing it.
  • If your child sucks the thumb when anxious, upset or frightened, try to resolve the root of the anxiety.
  • For a child old enough to understand, let him or her decide on how to break the habit.
  • Have your child talk to the doctor or dentist about the damage that can be done by continuing to suck the thumb.
  • Try wrapping the thumb in a bandage, a sock, or coating it with a bitter-tasting solution.
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Posted: September 2007