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Thumb Sucking

My son is 5(turned 5 in August) and sucks his thumb, he started at about 8 months old. I am not sure what to do or if I should do anything at this point. I have tried incentives, with charts and prizes and praise and talk of being a big boy. This works about 90% of the time during the day, he needs reminders and usually when I do remind him he says "Oops! I'm never going to suck my thumb again!" But seems to forget an hour or two later. At night his thumb is frequently in his mouth(not really sucking just there) I have tried band aids, funny tasting stuff, gloves... etc and he just takes it off . He does do it at school and his teacher is okay with it and agreed to help curb the habit when we let her know we're all ready. Also he does not get made fun of at school for it, so that is not an issue.
He was born with a large overbite(from me, my mom, my brother etc we all have a recessed lower jaw) and I know the thumb sucking isn't the cause of the overbite(although the dentist thinks so) but it's certainly not going to make it better. Whether or not he sucked his thumb he would "need" dental work when he's older so that isn't a huge motivator either. His dentist wants to put in a fixed palatal crib and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I know he does it for comfort and because he's insecure. Our lives aren't very stable right now and I feel it would be mean to take away his comfort at a time like this. I know how it feels too because I sucked my thumb as a kid and when my mom tried to get me to stop I got all butthurt because I felt I needed it.
Also he has two adult teeth that are crooked and pushed back from where he sucks his thumb. I worry about his adult teeth being messed up.
Before anyone says "No one goes to college sucking their thumb" yes, they do. I know many teens and adults who still suck their thumb. A lot of them tell me wish they had more help stopping as young children.

Any advice? Has anyone had an oral appliance used on their child that worked? Didn't work?


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 30th, 2012 09:32 am (UTC)
I work with kids and I've had some clients who have had success with a device like this: http://www.thumbguard.com.au/treatment-options.html (I'm in Australia). However, I also think that when you take away something or are trying to get rid of a particular behaviour, you need to replace it with something else rather than just saying no. So maybe giving him a special toy that you tell him to hug every time he has his finger in mouth? Or something to do with his hands like a stress ball to squeeze instead? Especially so since his thumb-sucking is a comfort measure and you need to give him another outlet for that :)

And I think it's great that you've worked so hard to help him out with this - even though he already has a bit of an overbite, having your finger in your mouth (whether sucking or not) can definitely impact the development of teeth and the shape of the palate long-term, so it may mean he requires even more orthodontic work later on.
Oct. 30th, 2012 09:47 am (UTC)
I guess I should also mention he has blankies that he either snuggles or smells. Most of the time he'll suck his thumb with the blanket wrapped around his hand, sometimes he'll wrap it around his thumb too and sit like he's sucking but is just putting his blanket to his face which also comforts him(I try to entourage him to do that instead.)

I'll look into thumb guards as well! Thanks!
Oct. 30th, 2012 10:30 am (UTC)
I had a palate expander put in when I was 8 that stopped my thumb sucking but wasn't put in for that purpose. If he's going to need braces either way later, you could probably wait for a few years.
Oct. 30th, 2012 11:42 am (UTC)
What funny tasting stuff did you try?

We tried this for our thumb sucker and finger sucker: http://www.amazon.com/Mavala-Stop-Biting-Sucking-0-3-Fluid/dp/B0000YUXI0/ and it worked overnight (I think they were around 2.5). (But, fair warning, we also tried it on the finger sucker and it didn't work as well for her. She stopped completely when awake, but the subconscious night-time sucking we couldn't stop.) (Another warning, it tastes BAD. I got the teeniest little bit in my mouth and had to brush my teeth.)
Oct. 30th, 2012 08:01 pm (UTC)
He loves to paint his nails and occasionally when other non tasty things have come in contact with his hands(like copper) I haven't tried anything specifically designed for thumb sucking.
Oct. 30th, 2012 12:43 pm (UTC)
I sucked my thumb constantly as a child. I suspect I still do sometimes (I am 31) in my sleep, because I wake up with my thumb feeling like it has been in my mouth. No one really tried to stop me and I am overall glad of that: it was a huge, huge comfort and TBH at about the time that social pressure to not suck in public really kicked in, I started smoking! I have not experienced any negative effects of thumb sucking. Oh, people told me it would make my teeth stick out, make my thumbnail drop off, etc etc etc, but none of it happened.

Mind you, attitudes to dentistry are not the same here as in the US, and I am fairly sure my teeth would be described as bad by most Americans (they are not regimentally straight and blindingly white) despite being described as 'healthy- absolutely fine' by the last dentist I saw. Aesthetics matter so much more, I find, when it comes to American ideas about teeth, so worries about how things will look later on are probably much more of a concern in the US. And you have already seen evidence that his thumb sucking is making his adult teeth "crooked and pushed back".

This crib thing- is it purely to prevent thumb sucking? If so that seems like overkill. But then again, differet cultural norms, I guess.
Oct. 30th, 2012 07:59 pm (UTC)
Right?(about the attitudes about dentistry) My teeth were okay, there were minor things that I wanted fixed but was convinced to do a bunch of unnecessary things to "fix" them and after a lot of money and a few years mine are worse than ever. They "look nice" to other people but they don't fit together and they cause horrid headaches(they're also lopsided which affects my bite and headaches as well) but they're straight, white and square just like they "need to be? :/

It is purely for thumb sucking. It kind of seems it would cause more problems than it would solve.
Oct. 31st, 2012 12:19 am (UTC)
This. I don't do it anymore, but the urge is still really strong when I'm super stressed out or if I'm laying down and reading.

I have an overbite, but the ortho I went to as a kid even admitted that the finger sucking (no thumbs here!) wasn't the cause (though it probably didn't help).
Oct. 30th, 2012 12:57 pm (UTC)
I sucked my thumb till I was about 18 and I don't regret anyone telling me I couldn't do it. My teeth are not messed up because of it and I only did it to fall asleep. I had SO MANY sleep problems when I did decide to kick the habit, just trying to figure out how to fall alseep. I sorta do wish I had some other tactic under my belt, but you do what works till it doesn't, right? My daughter sucks her thumb to fall asleep as well... I am not going to interfere.
Oct. 30th, 2012 01:51 pm (UTC)
My 4 year old daughter is coming up on her 4 year anniversary of thumb sucking (That sounds weird, but I have a picture of us together the first time she figured it out at 5 months old and she hasn't stopped since). She also has a "red pillow" lovey which is on the 3rd generation or so and the two of them make up the comfort system.
When we talk about it, she will say (scream) quite adamantly that she needs to suck her thumb. At this point, I try to teach her common sense about it:
If you've been playing outside, you have to wash your hands before the thumb can go in (she uses it to comfort her through transitions, like leaving the park)
If your thumb blister is hurting, snuggle your pillow instead (we try this all the time, but it only works if the blister hurts)
If you do the loud slurpy suck that grosses Mommy out you'll be moved to another room or have a door shut (if she has a bad dream, she'll try to lay next to me and slurp-suck herself to sleep....ugh!)
Only in your bed (this one works fairly well, we can just say "Get your thumb out of your mouth" and she'll pop it out and if the pillow can't comfort her alone, she'll go lay down)

We're having a hard time replacing the sucking with another comfort object too because she is already fiercely attached to both.</p>

Last year, we did one of those videos from Santa and he told her to stop sucking her thumb. She stopped for about an hour, but I will never forget the way her thumb just fell out of her mouth when he said that.

There's my useless essay about the useless things we've tried. My SIL, who my daughter is like in so many ways, sucked her thumb into her teen years and said that she was embarrassed by it, but also that she could not stop until she made the decision to.

Oct. 30th, 2012 02:39 pm (UTC)
Honestly if he's going to need work later just wait, especially if you're not stable in your lives. I never sucked my thumb but my mom tells tales of what her mom tried to get her to stop, sad to say sounds like your list, it didn't work on her, it just made her more stubborn not to quit. What worked was Grandma throwing her hands up in defeat and just ignoring it, mom stopped after about two months. My mom never tried to get my brother to quit, he chose to quit when he turned six and got into 1st grade.
Oct. 30th, 2012 03:08 pm (UTC)
My family tried everything to stop me from sucking my thumb and it really, really made me mad. I needed braces (for an unrelated issue; I had a "fang" tooth that wouldn't descend) and the orthodontist told me I HAD to quit and he'd "know" if I hadn't, so I made a big deal about how hard it had been to quit, so he said, "Oh, you did a great job, I can tell you quit." And of course, I hadn't. So I'm 32 and occasionally still wake up with my thumb in my mouth. You know the overbite isn't from the thumb sucking, so I don't really see the harm. I don't think I've experienced any problems in life from being a thumb-sucker. :)
Oct. 30th, 2012 03:29 pm (UTC)
My sister sucked her thumb until high school - no one made fun of her (other than our siblings and always when she was playful back about it), no horrible teeth issues, she just needed THAT comfort. I had/have a pillow... If anyone tried to tell me I couldn't have that pillow for comfort, you better believe I wouldn't have gone where they wanted/done what they wanted... I needed that comfort! I view a thumb the same way...
Oct. 30th, 2012 03:47 pm (UTC)
I sucked my thumb until I had to wear a headgear when I was 10. I couldn't fit my thumb in my mouth anymore so I was forced to give it up.
Oct. 30th, 2012 03:49 pm (UTC)
I sucked my thumb till I was 12 and stopped on my own. My parents just told me it was something babies do and that I shouldn't keep doing it forever, so I stopped when I was ready.

If things aren't stable, I wouldn't force quitting that.
Oct. 30th, 2012 03:52 pm (UTC)
I sucked my thumb until I was 9 my parents tried lots of things. I honestly do not even remember the how or why I stopped. What is funny is that I wrapped my pointer finger around my nose while I did it and I still do that without the thumb sucking. I had to get braces for reasons that had nothing to do with my thumb sucking.

My daughter who is almost 3 I wish would suck her thumb. We are working on getting rid of the pacifier now and it is not going well the thumb would have been easier to deal with.

Sorry I am not any help here. I do not see thumb sucking as a big deal.

Oct. 30th, 2012 04:42 pm (UTC)
I had a pacifier kid and a thumb sucker. The pacifier was so much easier to get rid of. You can't throw away a thumb!
Oct. 30th, 2012 04:47 pm (UTC)
You are right you can't. My daughter only uses her pacifier for naps and bedtime but people look at and make nasty comments at my almost 3 year old when they see it. I never had that problem when I sucked my thumb. So I guess I personally just look at that as easier to deal with.

Plus I am dreading taking it away it is going to disrupt her sleep but I know we have to do it. I would not mind thumb sucking because I did it until I was 9 and it did not cause me any issues.
Oct. 30th, 2012 04:48 pm (UTC)
I sucked my thumb until I was 5, and one day I was picking dandelions and then sucked my thumb... the taste was so horrible I never did it again. And my parents had even tried tabasco sauce, and that nasty stuff you paint on.

I don't know your situation, so I can't say what you should do!
We're in a stable situation and my 3 year old sucks his thumb. We went to the orthodontist to discuss having one of those wires put in, but since he only sucks his thumb when he's falling asleep, and the orthodontist said it wasn't that bad, we didn't get one put in.
At least his comfort is sucking his thumb, and not walking around with his hands in his pants 24/7!?
Oct. 30th, 2012 05:56 pm (UTC)
I was the kid that sucked her thumb well into high school! Your best bet is to take it in stages. Get your sons teacher on board and start by having him not suck it while he is in school. Get that down pat then move onto not sucking it while outside of the house, not while in the house and then try tackling bedtime. Sleeping is going to be the hard part, but if it's just sitting in his mouth while he's asleep I can't imagine it's doing much harm. Don't even bother with putting stuff on the thumb, NONE OF IT WORKS.

I would like to point out that even though I actively sucked my thumb for about 15 years, I have no dental problems! I have a slight overbite that runs in my family and was not caused by the thumb sucking.
Oct. 30th, 2012 08:08 pm (UTC)
I like this idea, he's pretty good about not doing it during the day if we keep him busy. Sleep is definitely going to be the hardest.
Oct. 30th, 2012 07:49 pm (UTC)
I sucked my thumb until I was about 12 when my thumbnail started to dig into the roof of my mouth. It was painful and uncomfortable so I had to stop. My parents never tried to get me to stop and no one made fun of me for it either. I got braces later on for unrelated reasons (my canines were really high up on my gums, and I jumped on the "everyone is doing it" bandwagon). One of my friends in elementary school had what I would call "spikes" on the back of her teeth to stop her from sucking her thumb, and even now I think that was overkill. I also agree with the person above about how the US takes teeth way too seriously, and if the overbite isn't due to thumb sucking then I wouldn't worry about it.

Of course thumb-sucking and security blankets went hand-in-hand for me, so when I had to stop sucking my thumb, I had my blanket to fall back on. I've gone through about 4 Baby Morgans (one of which I have right now and I'm almost 23 lol) and I brought it to sleepovers throughout my teens and my fiance doesn't mind it, and I still have it in order to get a good nights sleep.

It's all about comfort, security, self-soothing.. Try finding an alternative, something special that will always belong to him and only him, and if you get him to stop sucking his thumb/he stops on his own, he'll have something to fall back on that is just as good and just as comforting. I remember changing from my very first blanket to my second and it wasn't pretty, I wanted my old one back even though it was falling apart, change is scary, so it prolly won't be easy.
Oct. 30th, 2012 08:07 pm (UTC)
He has a blankie too(actually he has about 8 of them, I stocked up when I noticed he became attached lol) So that does help, he likes to hold the blankies and smell them.

It sometimes surprises me how many adult have security blankets and suck their thumb/fingers. I always remember being told no one would want to date/marry me as a thumb sucker or "allow" me to keep my blankets. :)
Oct. 30th, 2012 11:18 pm (UTC)
I sucked my thumb until Kindergarten and I developed a weird looking callous on my thumb from constantly having it in my mouth- one of the kids in my class made a face and asked why my thumb looked funny I was so humiliated I never sucked my thumb again
Oct. 30th, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
My son hasn't had any callouses or sores or anything(I know what you're talking about though, I've seen kids who have that.) Not sure if lack of skin issues means he's just not sucking it very much.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )


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