I'm no dentist...or orthodontist...but I've paid several professionals throughout the years when it came time to straighten my kids' teeth. If you have a child who is a thumbsucker, you are probably worried about whether or not you will have to pay to correct your child's teeth, too.

The truth is there seem to be no hard and fast rules when it comes to whether or not long-term thumbsucking does damage to teeth. I have four children, all were thumbsuckers, and so far, two have needed orthodontics due to thumbsucking. And two have not.

How vigorously a child sucks the thumb is important. We have used the 'thumb test' at night to determine how difficult night thumbsucking would be to break. Once our child was asleep we would gently tug at the thumb in their mouth. If it fell out effortlessly, not a lot of sucking was going on. But if there was plenty of suction, then they are still in the throes of a strong habit and it's obvious that degree of intensity might lead to tooth misalignment.

Nevertheless, it's important to note that most kids give up thumbsucking on their own, with no intervention. It's true. (Source: American Dental Association.) Over the years I've gotten better at identifying ways to help our little thumbsuckers address their habit and WANT to change (very, very important). So, for those of us who need to give our children some help, consider the following.

- Less pressure is better.
Creating a power struggle is the last thing you want to do. You think you know some stubborn adults? Wait until you tackle with a 3 year old who believes he's God.

- Involve your child.
Let's face it...you cannot force your child to stop his thumbsucking habit. So start getting creative at guiding, helping, and cheerleading. Actually, sitting down and talking can go a long way with most preschoolers. Explaining that thumbsucking is a fine thing for little babies, but growing up can mean more important things to do, is a song many young ones find impossible to resist. Chat about when your child thumbsucks the most and why it feels good to him. Listen patiently to his worries and concerns. These are important clues you can use to create a successful strategy to stop thumbsucking.

- Go for the long-term.
Some kids will give up their thumbsucking literally overnight. But for those who are still cherishing the habit, the change will come more slowly. Think months, possibly a year or more. Instead of getting discouraged, recognize that this is a lifetime change. What's one year of work in exchange for a better life? Seems like a reasonable deal. (If you would like more tips on how to stop thumbsucking, see the author's resource box at the end of this article.)

Thumbsucking can be a frustrating time in a family's life...or a period of conscientious teamwork and self-esteem building. As the parent, the choice is yours.

Author's Bio: 

Colleen Langenfeld has been parenting for over 25 years and helps other moms enjoy mothering more at http://www.paintedgold.com . Visit her website and get more thumbsucking tips today.