Word of Mouth
February 24, 2006

Parents are often worried about their child’s thumbsucking habit and wonder if it is harmful for it seems to give their child a great deal of comfort. Sucking is one of a baby’s natural reflexes and as they get older sucking their fingers, thumbs, pacifiers or other objects can make them feel secure and happy, and since it is relaxing can induce sleep. {{more}}

Children should stop sucking by the time their permanent front teeth are ready to erupt, around age five, and usually they stop between age two and four. If they continue after the eruption of these teeth, the sucking habit can interfere with the growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth and can be seen later in life as an open bite where the top and bottom front teeth do not meet. The intensity of the sucking will determine the severity of the damage, if the finger rests passively in the mouth it is less likely to cause damage than if the finger is sucked vigorously. Although pacifiers cause the same damage, it is an easier habit to break.

Here are some tips to stop your child from sucking:

• Praise children for not sucking rather than scolding when they are.

• Children often suck their thumbs for comfort and when feeling insecure. Try to find the cause of the anxiety and provide comfort to your child.

• Involve your child in choosing the method of stopping.

• If the above tips do not help, your dentist may suggest a medication to coat the thumb or the use of a mouth appliance.