Thumb Sucking Program

Why is thumb or finger sucking an issue?

Prolonged thumb or finger sucking can result in dental issues, narrowing of the palate and changes to the jaw and face. These structural changes can make saying certain speech sounds challenging. As children get older, they may become embarrassed and ashamed about their habit.

As a child sucks their thumb, endorphins and dopamine are released, making the sucking feel pleasurable but also very addictive. This could be why many children find it extremely difficult to stop sucking their thumb or finger without the correct help.

How do we stop thumb sucking?

We have found that ‘mechanical approaches’ such as thumb guards are often ineffective in eliminating the thumb sucking habit. If a child does not understand the importance of stopping their sucking habit and if they are not motivated, they will either suck their thumb in secret, start sucking as soon as the guard comes off or sometimes even suck the thumb guard itself!

Our thumb sucking program aims to help children cease the thumb or finger sucking habit and encourage optimal facial and orthodontic growth. Further to this, the program establishes proper tongue rest position, lip seal and nasal breathing. The thumb sucking program is based on principles of positive reinforcement to strengthen and shape the desired behaviours. The teaching, motivation and accountability provided in our thumb sucking program is essential for success.

There are important developmental milestones that must be achieved before a child is suitable to undergo this type of treatment. Suitability is assessed in each individual case, ensuring that maturity, understanding and desire is present. Our thumb sucking program is only appropriate for children who present with clinically significant sucking and can typically start from the age of 4 years old. Child readiness is essential for a successful program

Children under 4 years old:

It is developmentally normal for babies to suck their thumbs and fingers. Many babies even start sucking their thumbs in the womb! They are practising their sucking skills for feeding and exploring their hands and mouths. As they mature, many babies stop sucking their thumb or fingers by themselves. However, some babies do not grow out of this sucking and it turns into a habit that can be very hard to break!

Although our thumb sucking program can only start from 4 years old, babies and children under the age of 4 years old would still benefit from a consultation to thoroughly assess their mouth and sucking habit. Following this assessment, referrals to other professionals may be suggested e.g. Ear Nose and Throat Specialists, dentists etc. The child will be provided with ways to strengthen their jaw muscles and to satisfy their oral seeking behaviours in other ways. They are provided with gentle strategies to prepare them for the thumb sucking program, which they can commence when they are older and ready for it.

Please contact us if you would like a free chat about your child’s thumb sucking habit or to book a consultation