Thumb sucking is a common habit among
many children. It is common with children under two and is associated with
the need to seek food. In some infants it can signal fatigue, sleep,
hunger, teething and shyness.
Thirty percent of preschool
children continue the habit. Most kids out grow it by 5. It is may not be harmful
unless the child is still doing it at the time their permanent teeth are coming
in, which is usually around 4-6. It is done to comfort your child
when they are:
The intensity of thumb sucking
is a factor which determines whether or not dental problems may occur.
Vigorous thumb suckers will have more dental problems.
The possible effects of thumb sucking for
children after the age of three is:
Reshape the jawbone because their jawbones are still soft
Teeth grow out of aliment and position
Narrows dental arches which cause the next
Upper front teeth will flare out and tip upward
Lower teeth will move inward
Affect growth of child's palate (roof of the
Poor tongue placement
with learning to swallow properly. The
tongue plays a major role in swallowing.
For people who don't suck their thumb or
finger, their tongue goes up behind the
roof of their mouth as they swallow and
this causes a seal. But, when trying to
swallow while sucking the thumb or finger,
the tongue is thrust forward, in between
the front teeth. This action makes
swallowing difficult and will require
re-training to correct
the tongue movement.
Overbite or open bite
Make tonsils collapse to cause snoring
skeletal deformities which can
develop can lead to insecurities and
self-image problems, particularly in
Cause infections to develop around
fingernails to spread infectious diseases
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It is important to stop the thumb sucking habit
BEFORE permanent teeth come in. Breaking the habit sooner will make it
easier for you, the parent, your child and their mouth!
If they can not stop on their own,
by the ages of two to four, they may need help (we have three children who needed this help!)
Don't pressure your child to stop, this can reinforce the
Talk to them about the reasons and ways to work together to
stop the habit
Praise them when they do not suck their thumb,
caught them doing things right!
your child's teeth are
moving, talk to your dentist
for personalized advice.
Set up an incentive system to reward their progress
get frustrated with your
child; this tends to make
the habit worse.
If they suck because they feel insecure,
focus on eliminating the cause of the anxiety or if they do it for comfort,
offer them comfort instead of sucking their thumb.
Have them hold balls in their hands while they sleep so
their hands are busy.
Taping the end of the thumb
Reward them for NOT sucking their thumbs
If your child is older, involve them in
choosing the method of stopping
Remind your child of his habit by bandaging his thumb or
putting a sock on his hand at bedtime (you may have to duck tape the sock
Try the nail polish with cayenne pepper (it works well), if
they don't chip it off :-)
NEVER place this polish on an infant.
Have them wear a large shirt with long sleeves. Button
it completely on and tie the arms or rubber band them shut so they can not
suck on their thumb.
Ask your dentist to explain to your child the
effects of thumb sucking and encourage him to quit.
See someone on our list of orthodontist to help you
learn more about a "fence" (shown in the picture above), which is
an appliance that will help your child to stop sucking their thumb.
Care of Habit Reminder or
|Limit sugary foods and sodas. Also avoid sticky,
chewy, or hard foods as they can break your appliance.
|Brush your teeth and appliance with toothpaste each
morning and night, and after eating, too.|
is a device that is attached to a child's wrist using a colorful
bracelet. When attached properly, a child can not remove T-Guard.
The children must wear the appliance whenever they may be tempted to
suck. It comes in different bright colors. The kit comes with an
instructional video, the guard and 60 wrist bands. Once the guard
is worn the child can not generate vacuum so the sucking is not that
satisfying. In the morning you can cut the band off. We
advise the use of this device with your child's permission and not force
them to use the device.
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Current Research on Affects of
Thumb Sucking After Age 2 Can Lead to Overbite
The ideal age for
discontinuation of thumb sucking
habits is around 24 months.
Kids who continue to suck their
fingers or use a pacifier after the age of 2 may be more likely to end up
in the orthodontist's office. Also kids who used a pacifier or
sucked their fingers or thumb by the age of 4 to 5 were more likely to:
|develop protruding front teeth |
|an irregular bite|
|affect the development of the jaw |
|influence the placement of developing teeth|
The current report suggests
that even shorter-term sucking can have a notable impact on a children
dental health. Research has shown finger or thumb sucking to be
more detrimental to the development of teeth than using a pacifier. Parents
should do whatever is necessary to prevent their child from developing a
finger or thumb sucking habit, even if that means encouraging a pacifier
habit for a while. The reason for this is that when the child is
2 to 3 years old the pacifier can be thrown away and the habit stopped,
it's very difficult to stop a finger or thumb habit, so it's best
to avoid them.
"If a child's sucking
habits persist by the time he/she is 36 to 48 mounts of age, professional
assistance in habit discontinuation may be warranted to minimize the risk
of developing malocclusion". Early dental visits should
provide parents with needed guidance to help their children cease such
habits by 36 months of age or younger.
SOURCE: Journal of the American Dental Association,
Dr. John Warren 2001;132:1685-1693.
(Picture courtesy of Creighton University)
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February 06, 2008
Babies & Children Dental Index