Children suck on their thumbs for a number of different reasons, anxiety, fear, comfort, habit, or even self-soothing to fall asleep. Regardless of the reason you’re wondering how old is too old for this habit to continue so as not to negatively affect permanent teeth. Children usually stop sucking their thumbs on their own around 2-4 years old or when their permanent front teeth start erupting. There is no specific age recommendation to have them stop; it is in relation to when their front permanent teeth erupt. If they do not cease the action once permanent teeth have erupted the pressure can be damaging. Teeth at this point can be pushed out of place, and/or bone can be distorted. Some children need a little more help than others to help stop this habit. Here are a few tips and tricks to help them. 

At Home:

  • Positive reinforcement
  • Visual reminder; tie a bow around thumb, put band-aid on
  • Soak thumb in vinegar to make it taste bad
  • Bandage thumb to the rest of their hand
  • Place sock over hand at night

Professional Options:

  • Tongue tamers/spurs – glued to the back side of front teeth, they are uncomfortable for the thumb to rest on
  • Habit crib – glued in appliance that prevents the thumb from getting a good suction thus the action is not as rewarding to the child
  • Prescription of a bitter medication to coat the thumb
  • Removable retainer that fits in the roof of the mouth that makes it feel different enough that it seems to satisfy some of the urge to put a finger or thumb into the mouth.