How To Break The Habit Of Thumb Or Finger Sucking

Wednesday, 8 March 2023
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Finger Sucking

Ideally, we want to break the habit of thumb or finger sucking before the age of 5. This is to prevent what is called an “Anterior Open Bite” which means that the front teeth don’t meet together while the back teeth are biting together. This results in speech problems and difficulty eating some foods.  An Anterior Open Bite usually needs correction with specialist orthodontics.

Break The Habit Of Thumb Or Finger Sucking

Have a conversation with your child to ensure they are ready to give up the finger sucking habit- their compliance is very important.

Pick a period to do this and stick to it. There will be nights of struggle at the start but encourage your child to persist.

There are a few things we can do to bombard the habit to help children kick the habit.

  • Negotiate a reward with your child. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but something they really want.
  • Common rewards are dolls, matchbox cars, princess dresses and toy trucks.
  • Download and print a free rewards chart from the internet so your child can track their progress.
  • Wrap your child’s favourite finger or thumb in shorts tape- this doesn’t have to be tight, you just want to change the texture of the thumb/finger so it doesn’t feel like it normally does when they suck it. Sports tape comes it lots of fun colours and you can purchase it online or at the chemist.
  • Purchase “Stop and Grow” or a similar product from your pharmacy. This is usually less than $10 and is bitter tasting nail polish. Paint this onto your child’s thumb or finger and onto the sports tape.

On the first morning of the 2-week period, your child will probably wake up with a bitter taste in their mouth.  This helps them to realise that they have been sucking their thumb/finger while they were asleep. By the end of the 2-week period, your child won’t have that bitter taste when they wake up.

If you aren’t successful with these methods, there are simple painless ways a specialist orthodontist can help to break the habit. One way they often break this habit is to make a little plate that fits in the child’s mouth. This blocks the child’s finger from sitting in the palate, and contrary to urban myth, these are NOT spiked or sharp and do NOT cut the child’s tongue, so please don’t frighten the child with threats of this.