How to Stop a Teen From Sucking His Thumb

While thumb sucking might be normal for a toddler, it can indicate emotional problems in a teen, according to Linda Goldstein, M.D. in a WebMD article. If your teen is continuing to suck his thumb even though both he and you both want him to stop, there are some tricks you might try. However, consider seeking professional help if you believe that the thumb-sucking behavior is a stress- or anxiety-related response.

  1. Talk to your teen to ensure that he wants to stop the thumb-sucking habit. If he is not willing or able to stop the habit, take him to see his doctor who can discuss the matter with him. His doctor might recommend that he see a mental health professional to help him deal with the issues causing the habit.

  1. Place thumb bitters on his thumb nail to make the act of sucking unpleasant. This solution might also help to make him recognize the situations in which he instinctively wants to suck his thumb -- and help enable him to find other coping mechanisms.

  1. Put a bandage or thumb guard around his thumb during the times when his thumb sucking seems most prevalent -- most likely at night or when he's in a stressful situation. It can take up to six weeks to break a habit, notes Sabine Hack, M.D. in a WebMD article. This means that you shouldn't give up easily, even if it seems as though breaking the thumb-sucking habit is an insurmountable task.

  1. Visit your dentist to inquire about a fixed palatal crib. A fixed palatal crib is a device that cements to the roof of your teen’s mouth to help correct any damage to his bite or tooth structure from prolonged thumb sucking. An added benefit of a fixed palatal crib is that it takes the pleasure out of sucking a thumb due to the wires and structure of the crib device, according to the NYU Langone Medical Center website.

  1. Consider setting up a reward system to add an incentive to breaking the thumb-sucking habit. For example, set specific time frames that your teen needs to meet -- like a full week of no thumb sucking -- and come up with a reward for meeting the goal such as a new game, trip to the movies or another item that your teen might want.

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