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I have been trying to think of a new blog topic for a while. After about three thumb suckers came in to see me today, it smacked me right in the face. Write something about thumb sucking.

Thumb/finger suckers come in all shapes and sizes. I have seen many adults that admit to thumb sucking as well as tons of kids. There are also different intensities of thumb sucking. Some are quite aggressive and some just hold the digit in their mouth. I have seen disfigured fingers from aggressive finger sucking. I have also seen thumb suckers that have no dental issues at all.

How do I evaluate a patient that is a thumb sucker? What do we do about?

I explain it like this: Anything that pushes on a tooth for an extended period of time, will cause the teeth to move. Lips, tongues, fingers, toes can create forces that will move teeth. Some forces are good and some forces are not good.

I tell parents that an ideal time to start trying to get the thumb out of the mouth is when the permanent front teeth are beginning to erupt. You can start the conversation by saying “Now that your big girl teeth are coming in, it is time to stop sucking your thumb.” Don’t ask, tell them it is time to stop. Just like you are telling them not to play with matches.

I have tried all kinds of different methods to stop thumb sucking. The first thing you need is a child that WANTS to stop. They must understand and believe that they need to stop. If they do not want to stop, then your chances of success are limited, no matter what you do. If the child wants to stop, then it is up to us to give them the tools to break the habit.

My favorite tool that is the 30 day Band- aid method. I tell patients to get a box of Band aids and a calender. I like the plastic Band aids over the fabric Band aids. Place a Band aid on the thumb, and keep one there for thirty days. When the thumb goes into the mouth, the Band aid will remind the child to take it out. Remember, the child must want to stop. If not, then they will simply remove the Band aid and suck their thumb.

Mark off every day on the calender for thirty days. DO NOT stop after two weeks, or if the child says, “I dont need the Band aid”. Research suggests that it takes thirty days to break a habit. No matter what, do it for thirty days.

I have tried many different techniques to stop thumb sucking. The thirty day band aid trick has had more success than all the others combined.

The earlier you can break the thumb sucking habit the better. But, it is never too late to stop. Once a patient stops, the changes in the teeth can be dramatic and may keep them out of my office! Band aids are way cheaper than braces.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. ernest

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