Popular questions about thumb sucking and our thumb guards.

My baby is a thumb sucker, should I buy a thumb guard?

This is one of the most popular thumb guard questions people ask us. As a business you might expect me to say yes. However, whilst we would appreciate your custom, unless your baby has developed blisters or an infection due to their sucking habit, there is no need to intervene at this stage. The truth is that over three-quarters of babies suck their thumbs or fingers during the first year of their life. Then, as they move past toddler hood and into the preschool years, most children end the habit naturally.

At what age does thumb sucking become a problem?

For the majority of children, thumb sucking never really becomes a problem at all. Experts estimate that only one in five children will still be sucking on their fingers, thumbs or both, past their fifth birthday. Unfortunately, whilst they are unlikely to have adult teeth to damage, they may already be altering the position of their jaw.

This is also the age where many children start to experience teasing due to their habit. Children can be cruel. Once in school, if the habit continues, thumb suckers may find themselves not only taunted by class mates, but excluded from games and other activities. As thumb sucking is primarily a method of self comfort, such bullying by peers is more likely to exasperate the problem rather than encourage a child to stop.

What are the risks associated with thumb sucking?

The greatest problems arise when a child is still thumb-sucking after their permanent teeth have cut through. At this point there is an increased likelihood of them developing an abnormal bite, skin infections and/or speech problems. Unless you are fortunate enough to receive free treatment, the costs incurred to correct these conditions can be high.

Unfortunately thumb sucking is also known to increase the likelihood of a child picking up viruses, such as Norovirus and Coronavirus. An infected child is also more likely to spread the virus to others.

How are viral particles spread through thumb sucking?

Whilst we all know the importance of hand washing and not touching our faces, children do not tend to remember. Often they do not suck their thumb consciously and may touch infected surfaces whilst playing and then pop their thumb into their mouth.

Equally a child who is infected with a virus may deposit viral particles on other surfaces via their saliva. 

Thumb guards are one method you can try to encourage your child not to suck their thumb.

What is the recommended age for using a thumb guard?

This is another of the most popular thumb guard questions parents ask. Because of the social benefits of helping children  break their sucking habit prior to starting school, we created our thumb guard with four year olds in mind.  Additionally, at four, whilst children are old enough to understand why they should not suck their thumbs, they are also young enough not to have adult teeth. Of course we can and do make our guards for any age.

Is it possible to identify which children are likely to continue thumb sucking?

I am not an expert. However, having had eight children, I have gained some experience in this matter. Whilst all my children have been thumb suckers, half only indulged in the habit occasionally and rarely in public. With those children, even when they did have their thumbs in their mouths, they appeared to simply rest them there. Interestingly, three of those children stopped thumb sucking naturally by the age of five. The fourth followed suit after a friendly chat with our dentist.

With our other four children however, things have been rather different. I would describe two of them as vigorous thumb suckers, who were not put off by social occasions. Their habits led to our own thumb guard questions, ending with the introduction of our thumb guards.

As for the remaining two, they were thumb sucking before our thumb guards were created and they were going for Olympic gold. I doubt it is a coincidence that one is already wearing braces and the other has a serious overbite that will require correction in a year or two.

Thus I would say yes, it is possible to identify which children are more likely to continue thumb sucking, by observing how and when they suck their thumbs and fingers.

Why does my child struggle to stop thumb sucking? 

The key point to remember is that for children who continue thumb sucking past five years of age, it is likely their habit has become deeply ingrained. You could describe it as an addiction or emotional crutch. For these children, the triggers that cause them to pop their thumb into their mouth are not dissimilar to those that prompt a smoker to reach for a cigarette. Just as it is with any other addiction, neither consequence nor nagging is likely to sway your child away from their thumb. Neither should you force your child to go ‘cold turkey’.  In fact such actions may have the opposite effect.  Success is more likely to come when your child feels in control, understands why they should quit and has then made the decision to do so for themselves.

How should I choose my child’s thumb or finger guard?

We designed our thumb guards and finger guards with children in mind. They are a physical reminder for children who want to break the habit, not to put their thumbs or fingers in their mouths .As such, whenever possible, we recommend allowing your child to choose their guard. The guard then becomes part of the child’s decision to quit as opposed to something they were made to wear. We use a large variety of fabrics in order to appeal to individual tastes.

Why are the thumb guards and finger guards easy for a child to remove?

Our guards help children with their decision to end their sucking habit. Therefore we felt it was equally important to create guards that they could use without assistance. By five years old children are developing skills to perform many tasks independently. Although the guards are washable, for some tasks, such as using the bathroom, it is not appropriate to wear a guard. When a child has to keep asking for their guard’s removal, this removes part of their independence also. This may lead them to view the guard as a restriction rather than an aid.

Which fastening is best for my child?

Our thumb and finger guards are available with a choice of three fastenings. You can choose between velcro, a button or a snap fastening. You should choose whichever fastening you feel your child is best able to manage for themselves. Please do bear in mind the following;

  1. A velcro fastening is the easiest to undo and do up again. It is also our only adjustable fastening. This is the fastening we recommend for younger children.
  2. A button is harder for younger children to manage but is more resilient than velcro.
  3. Our snap fastening is the hardest to undo and is the fastening of choice for older children who prefer its stylish look.

Using the guards securely for children under four or those with special needs

Our guards can be worn by any age. They are also suitable for children and adults with special needs. There are times when it is necessary for parents to make the decision to end or reduce a sucking habit on behalf of their child. Sometimes babies and children suck so frequently or vigorously that they begin to cause damage to the their hands. Examples are  paronychia, blisters and dry, cracked skin. At these times it is appropriate to try a thumb or finger guard.

We cannot guarantee your child will not remove our products because the design allows for children to wear them independently. You can reduce the likelihood however, by choosing the fastening your child is least likely to undo. Since they are not able to make the decision for themselves, very young children and children with disabilities are likely to attempt to remove the guards.  A two year old will quickly master a velcro fastening but is less likely to manage a snap or button.

Do you have a question?

If you cannot see the answers to your thumb guard questions here, please contact us with your question via our ‘Contact us’ page.