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Thumb Sucking and Use of Pacifiers

Thumb sucking and use of pacifiers are common among children. Many kids suck thumbs to sooth themselves or when they are hungry or tired. The habit of thumb sucking or pacifier use helps children feel secure during difficult emotional periods, such as when they are away from parents or in an unusual environment.

Like other childhood habits, thumb sucking also goes away on its own between the age of 2 and 4 years. However, sometimes, thumb sucking or pacifier use might affect the roof of the mouth (palate), alignment of the teeth and growth of the mouth.

Tips to reduce thumb sucking or pacifier use: When a child does not stop this habit on his/her own then worried parents should try out these positive reinforcement methods to break the habit of thumb sucking or pacifier use.


  • Praise your child or reward (such as a trip to play ground or an additional bedtime story) him or her for not sucking thumb.
  • Sometimes your child may suck his or her finger due to stress or anxiety. Try to identify the cause and make your child relax.
  • Instead of scolding the child, give him or her gentle reminder to stop sucking the thumb.
  • Visit a dentist who can encourage the child to stop sucking his/her thumb.

Stress and anxiety can cause thumb sucking in your child; provide a secure and loving environment to make your child feel relaxed.

If these methods fail to work, ask your dentist or doctor about the following methods:

  • Put a bandage around the thumb to remind your child about the habit
  • Protect your child’s teeth and mouth by using dental appliances prescribed by dentist
  • Carefully use a non-poisonous bitter tasting liquid like bitter gourd juice on the thumb to prevent your child from sucking the thumb.

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