Is Thumb-Sucking Problematic?

Thumb-sucking is a natural behavior for children. It’s a reflex that calms them and makes them feel more secure, and it may even help them sleep. However, if the habit continues into adolescence, it can cause numerous dental issues.

As permanent teeth are replacing the primary teeth, thumb-sucking can disrupt the overall growth of the mouth, including the alignment of the teeth. It can also cause unnatural changes to the roof of the mouth.

Most children stop sucking their thumbs around the time permanent teeth are ready to come in—somewhere between two and four years of age. Those who continue to suck their thumbs past this stage are at a higher risk for damage.

Another factor that determines whether or not damage will occur is the intensity of the child’s sucking. Children who suck their thumbs with vigor will have more dental issues than those who simply rest their thumb in their mouth. In fact, children who suck their thumbs aggressively have been known to develop issues before the arrival of their permanent teeth.

Here are a few ways to get your children to stop sucking their thumbs:

• Discovering and eliminating the cause of anxiety which is making them want to suck their thumb in the first place.

• Praise your child for not sucking.

• Ask your child’s dentist to explain the risks.

If you notice your child is still sucking their thumb past the arrival of their permanent teeth, and you are unable to rectify the issue yourself, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your dentist—before problems arise. If you don’t have a dentist, go to our directory to see reviews of a dentist near you.