It is important for parents to help their child break the habit before the permanent teeth erupt, preferably beginning intervention by age 3. To help your child break the habit consider the following approaches:

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  • Talk to your child in basic terms and tell them why you want them to stop.
  • Let them know that you believe they can do it.
  • Praise your child when they don’t suck their thumb and start a reward system such as stickers or extra bedtime story.
  • Start a calendar to track their progress and reinforce their success by placing a star on days when the habit was avoided.
  • Provide gentle reminders.
  • Find alternative ways of comforting and soothing such as a stuffed animal or another comfort object.

In children who express a desire to quit and just need a little help, parents can try physical interventions to serve as a reminder. Techniques include:

  • Covering hands with mittens or socks when the child goes to bed.
  • Dressing the child in a special shirt with the sleeves sewn closed.
  • Placing a bandage or specialty plastic guard on the thumb or finger.

If these methods are not effective, talk to your dentist. There are dental appliances that can be placed in the mouth when a child wants to stop but need a constant reminder.