Thumbsucking Can Represent an Underlying Problem

10 Oct, 2018 by B. Lennihan

Thumbsucking after the age of five or six can turn into a dental problem, especially if your child is actively sucking rather than passively resting her thumb in her mouth. It can change the shape of the palate and cause overbite as the top teeth stick out.

It can also be hard to break the habit at that point, so let’s consider some natural approaches.

First let’s change the way we think about thumbsucking. Instead of considering it as a “bad habit” which we need to “break”, let’s assume that the child is doing it for a reason. If we can understand and resolve the reason, the thumbsucking will automatically stop.

In my practice, the homeopathic remedy Pulsatilla often works for thumbsucking when it’s part of a larger picture: a child who wants to remain babyish and has the typical Pulsatilla personality (clingy, attached to mom, cuddly and affectionate, generally sweet and mild-tempered but can also be whiny and manipulative and suddenly teary). Children may tend to be like this from birth, especially if they experienced abandonment as a newborn (for example from an induced birth or an elective Caesarean – which to a baby is like being evicted from paradise — or from being dropped off at daycare before they are ready to separate from their mother).

Or they may develop regressive tendencies when a new baby sister or brother starts getting all the attention, and somewhere in their little brain they figure out that acting like a baby might get them back in the limelight again. For these kids, thumbsucking might be part of a pattern that includes forgetting their potty training, wanting to drink from a bottle again, and wanting to sleep in mommy and daddy’s bed again. Not to mention clinging like velcro to mom’s leg when dropped off at daycare.

For a child like this, Pulsatilla is not just about fixing the thumbsucking. It’s about relieving the child’s feeling of abandonment, whether from birth, or from losing their special spot in their parents’ affection when a new baby appears.

There might be a totally different reason, though, with a different fix. Thumbsucking stimulates the point in the roof of the mouth between the hard and soft palate. Above that point is the pituitary gland, which releases endorphins, the body’s natural pain-relievers and stress-reducers.

Sometimes the system doesn’t work, though, and the child has found that rubbing the palate releases those innate stress relievers. Take your child to a craniosacral therapist or to a non-force chiropractor for a sphenobasilar adjustment.” I learned about this from my very smart colleagues at the Lydian Center, and I recommend our craniosacral therapist, Eve Kodiak, who specializes in babies (

This was adaped from Burke Lennihan’s Your Natural Medicine Cabinet: A Practical Guide to Drug-Free Remedies for Common Ailments and may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes with attribution and a backlink to this site.

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