Michelle H. Edwards, DDS, MSD

9885 E. 116th Street, Suite 100

Fishers, IN 46037

Thumb-Sucking Do's and Don'ts

That ultrasound shot of your little one sucking their thumb was an adorable addition to your family scrapbook. But, as your baby grows up, their once innocent habit might seem like an attack on their teeth. Parents everywhere stress over how to handle a child who won’t stop sucking their thumb. Our pediatric dentists in Indianapolis have seen their fair share of dental damage caused by thumb sucking. But, with a little positive reinforcement and some savvy parenting, you can help your child curb their thumb-sucking once and for all. Here are some do’s and don’ts for helping your child to stop sucking their thumb.

Don’t: Obsess Over Early Thumb Sucking

When you notice a brand new tooth in your child’s mouth, you might start stressing over their long term thumb-sucking habit. But, dentists and pediatricians warn parents not to become fixated on early thumb sucking. It isn’t likely to become a lifelong habit. The American Dental Association reports that between 85% and 99% of children stop sucking their thumbs on their own before they are four or five years old, so many things you might do before that to prevent thumb sucking could do more harm than good.

Do: Be Mindful Of the Problem

That being said, parents should watch their child’s thumb sucking to make sure they aren’t injuring their mouth or their thumb. Watch out for aggressive sucking, biting, or constant moisture that can make the lips chapped and sore. If your child exhibits injuries due to thumb sucking, talk with your pediatrician and your pediatric dentist in Indianapolis. You should also talk to us if your child is older than four or five years old and still sucks their thumb frequently. Older thumb sucking could show a deeply rooted habit, and our pediatric dentists can offer tips, tricks, medicines, or mouth guards to curb the habit.

Don’t: Shame Your Child

It can be frustrating when children continue to do something that you warned them about. This is especially true when you know the damaging dental side effects of things like thumb sucking. But, shaming your child by punishing them or pointing the habit out to their peers won’t help—but it could definitely hurt their self-esteem.

Do: Use Positive Reinforcement

Compliment your child when you notice they aren’t sucking their thumbs, and tell them how proud you are that they are sucking their thumbs less. Children love to make their parents proud. A little positive reinforcement here and there can help them to kick the habit permanently.

If you are concerned about your child's thumb-sucking, make an appointment with our pediatric dentists in the Indianapolis area.

Don’t: Intentionally Scare Your Kids

Some parents try to scare kids out of sucking their thumbs by showing them pictures of damaged teeth or talking to them about complex psychological issues like anxiety. Although it might be tempting to explain the intricacies of thumb sucking to your children, scaring your kids could make them feel like they are doing something wrong, when thumb sucking is a very, very common issue.

Do: Explain Why Thumb Sucking Isn’t a Good Idea

Try to take a gentle approach to talking with your kids. Explain to your child that thumb sucking could hurt their teeth, and that most kids consider it a “baby” habit. Gently approaching these topics in the comfort and safety of your own home could help your child to decide to stop on their own. That way it won't hurt their self esteem or give them nightmares about damaged teeth.


If you are concerned about your child’s thumb sucking habit, make an appointment for your little one at the Children's Dental Center. Our friendly, kid-centered office will make your child feel right at home. See our Indianapolis pediatric dentists today!