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When Should You Encourage Kids to Stop Sucking Their Thumbs?

Many infants use thumb sucking to self-soothe – sometimes even before they are born! It’s a natural habit, but many parents become concerned, especially once teeth start coming in. Thankfully, there is usually no need for concern.

Pacifiers are a popular option with parents, but thumb sucking has its advantages over them: thumbs are always available, they don’t fall on the dirty floor, and they’re within a child’s control, giving them comfort whenever they need it.

On the flip side, when it’s time to give up the habit, that same perk of availability becomes a downside.

The good news? Most children can suck their thumb without dental issues like misalignment. Kids usually give it up by age 4 to 6, when permanent teeth begin to appear and risk of damage from thumb-sucking appears.

Another factor to consider is how aggressively your child sucks their thumb. If they suck passively, it’s less likely to cause damage than if they’re an aggressive sucker. If they’re aggressive, it may be a good idea to start weaning from the habit by 4 years of age.

If you’re not sure, your local children’s dentist will be able to help you assess the damage, if any, and give you guidance on the weaning process.

Thankfully, parents don’t normally have to intervene at all. Children normally give it up on their own as they grow and find other ways to calm themselves (around age 4 or 5).

The bottom line? Thumb sucking isn’t an issue until those permanent teeth start coming in or if your child is an aggressive sucker. Openly discouraging your child can lead to them stressing and sucking their thumb even more, so unless they meet those two conditions, it’s best to leave them alone!

Keeping regular appointments with your children’s dentist is a great way to encourage dental health and bring up any issues with thumb sucking. If it’s still happening around age 4 or 5, you and your dentist can come up with a plan together to encourage your child to stop. In the meantime, enjoy the fact that your child’s self-soother can’t get lost under the couch!