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Why Bitter Nail Polish Does Not Stop Thumb Sucking

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Thumb sucking is a natural behavior often found in small children. While it can provide comfort and security to youngsters, many parents worry because this habit can have long-term effects on the teeth and mouth if it persists into toddlerhood.

To discourage thumb sucking, some people believe that applying bitter-tasting nail polish to their child’s nails will work as an effective deterrent. Unfortunately, bitter nail polish doesn’t work in the long term. Here are three reasons why bitter nail polish does not stop thumb sucking.


Children quickly become used to the taste of the nail polish and don’t find it aversive enough to stop them from sucking their thumbs. This is because the taste of the nail polish fades over time, and the pleasurable sensations that thumb sucking provides outweigh the child’s distaste for the unpleasant substance. Once a child has gotten used to the taste, they may not even notice that it’s there.


You must apply and reapply the bitter nail polish regularly to keep the bitter taste, which can be a difficult task for busy parents. Frequent applications of the nail polish can lead to skin irritation and other health concerns. This makes bitter nail polish an inconvenient option for discouraging thumb-sucking behavior.

Underlying Causes

Bitter nail polish doesn’t address the root cause of thumb sucking—comfort and security. Instead of relying on this ineffective method, parents should identify the source of their child’s anxiety and provide them with alternative coping strategies.

These strategies could include using positive reinforcement or providing extra reassurance and support when needed. Devices like the AeroThumb are great answers for how to break thumb-sucking habits by taking away the pleasurable sensation the child experiences when sucking their thumb. This removes the motivation to engage in the activity.

It’s important to remember that every child is different, and what works for one may not work for another. While bitter nail polish does not stop thumb sucking, other strategies can work for both parents and children. With patience, understanding, and support, thumb sucking can eventually become a thing of the past.