Thumb-Sucking – St. Louis, MO

Helping Them Break the Habit and Enjoy a Healthier Smile

Non-nutritive habits like thumb-sucking can be difficult to break. Many children find comfort in being able to suck on their thumb or fingers and although it is fine for babies and young toddlers, the longer it continues, the more vulnerable they become to serious oral health problems. Not only can they face issues with tooth eruption, but oral development can be hindered, resulting in the need for complex dental care over time. Fortunately, Dr. Homer Sedighi and his team can help to mitigate this problem. As a pediatric dentist in St. Louis, his experience working with young children and their parents makes it possible for him to offer beneficial tips and techniques that will help your child break this bad habit and ultimately, save their smile. To learn more about what you can do to help your little one, contact us today to schedule an appointment.,

A little girl wearing a teal shirt sucks her thumb before going to see a pediatric dentist in St. Louis

Why Choose Dr. Homer Sedighi for Thumb-Sucking?

  • Board-Certified Dental Professional with Years of Experience
  • Dental Insurance Accepted
  • Compassionate Dental Team for More Enjoyable Visit

Thumb-Sucking 101: What You Need to Know

A girl holds a teddy bear and sucks her thumb while looking off in the distance

Thumb-sucking is not an uncommon habit for babies and young children. In fact, most children will resort to using their thumb and/or fingers as a way to comfort and cope when feeling overwhelmed. While it does dissipate and become less of a problem for many kids, some continue to practice this bad habit as they get older. As a result, it can become problematic as their teeth, jaw, and bite develop.

The Impact Thumb-Sucking Has on Your Child’s Oral Health

A little girl wearing a striped shirt and glasses smiles in preparation for seeing her dentist

Two and four seem to be the magic age when thumb-sucking becomes less frequent; however, if allowed to continue, you will discover that your child’s smile and facial features can be negatively impacted. During a visit with your child’s pediatric dentist, it may come to light that one or more of the following problems are developing as a result of your child’s inability to stop sucking their thumb:

  • Permanent teeth are misaligned
  • They have an overbite, crossbite, or open bite
  • Their facial development is asymmetrical with the jaw and roof of the mouth changing

As permanent teeth begin to erupt, it is imperative that you take appropriate action to help your child stop sucking their thumb. If you have difficulty along the way, do not worry. Dr. Sedighi and our team of experts can help you take control of the situation and get your child on the right path to better oral health.

How to Break the Habit

A mother hugs her daughter who holds onto a teddy bear and smiles

It may not be easy getting your child to break this bad habit, but if you use the right tactics and techniques, the process can be less dramatic for both you and your little one. To stop thumb-sucking, try one or more of the following solutions:

  • Use positive wording and remain encouraging: Your child will want to continue this bad habit even though you remind them of the importance of stopping. They will need support and encouragement from you, so make sure you avoid scolding them when you see them sucking their thumb. Instead, gently remind them to remove their fingers from their mouth and provide them with an alternative way to stay comforted.
  • Look at the triggers: If you notice your child sucks their thumb when certain instances or situations occur, try to determine how you can lessen this from happening, as your child may then begin to suck their thumb less and less.
  • Offer a reward: Each time your child goes a set period of time without sucking their thumb, offer them a sugar-free reward. Stickers, a trip to the park, or a simple toy can give them the motivation to avoid sticking their finger in their mouth.
  • Use coverings to keep their hands out of their mouth at night: If you notice your little one likes to suck their thumb at night, cover their hand with a sock or place a band-aid over their thumb to keep them from engaging in the practice.

Thumb-Sucking FAQs

A little girl with pigtails sucks her thumb

When trying to find a trusted pediatric dentist in Chesterfield, you want someone capable of providing helpful tips and recommendations no matter the stage of life your child is in. Fortunately, Dr. Sedighi is here to help you better navigate some of the most difficult transitions your child may face, including thumb-sucking. This non-nutritive habit can spell disaster for their oral health as they grow older, which is why he has compiled some common questions asked by other parents with the same problem. We invite you to review the following questions and contact us if you do not see yours listed below. We’ll be happy to schedule an appointment and discuss your concerns further.

My child is no longer an infant, so why is thumb-sucking still a problem?

While it is true that some children will simply grow out of the habit of sucking their thumb once they are a toddler or older, this is not always the case. Many children use this common technique as a coping mechanism when scared, nervous, or sad. Because it can be comforting to suck their thumb, they will continue the habit to ensure they are capable of self-soothing. Unfortunately, this is when it can become more of a problem. As a parent, you will need to discover ways to combat thumb-sucking by offering other comfort items (i.e., stuffed animal, special blanket) or finding solutions that will keep their hands busy and out of their mouth.

How can I know if thumb-sucking is becoming a problem?

If your little one is preparing to start school or is already in Kindergarten or first grade, they ideally should no longer be sucking their thumb, as this is when oral health problems can occur, resulting in timely and costly treatments to fix. However, there are other ways you can tell if your child’s thumb-sucking is already beginning to cause a problem, such as:

  • They appear ashamed and hide their thumb-sucking
  • They form a callous
  • They chew or pull their hair

These additional signs tend to indicate a larger problem that may require visiting with your child’s pediatrician, so remember, they are rare. In a majority of cases, thumb-sucking will cease on its own.

Why are dental visits important with regard to thumb-sucking?

It’s no secret that your child’s pediatric dentist recommends they come in for regular dental checkups and cleanings every six months. Not only can these visits make it possible for Dr. Sedighi to check for signs of decay, cavities, and gum disease, but he can also spot problems associated with thumb-sucking early on. As a parent, you may not think to look for certain issues, or you may not think a particular issue is anything to be worried about. By maintaining these regular visits, we can offer recommendations, advice, and treatment options to minimize the potential problem being caused by thumb-sucking to avoid more serious and complex treatment later on.

What if my child will not stop sucking their thumb?

You should feel assured that most children will break their thumb-sucking habit with the help and encouragement of their parents and pediatric dentist. However, if for some reason you are experiencing continued difficulty in getting your child to stop sucking their thumb, additional steps may need to be taken. It is possible to inquire about a temporary device that can block your child from sucking their thumb. These are rarely required, especially if parents are diligent about working with their children to break this non-nutritive habit.