Despite appearing to be a trivial issue, it is common for parents to come into our office worried about their children’s habit of sucking their thumbs or a pacifier. It is actually a myth that thumb sucking and overuse of a pacifier won’t do any long-term harm. In fact, it can cause malformed teeth that need braces in the future. It’s a bad habit that should be looked at with concern.


What are the Oral Effects of Thumb Sucking?


Thumb sucking is not a harmless habit because it can prevent your child’s mouth from growing normally. The constant and vigorous thumb sucking motion will cause changes to the teeth and the shape of their mouth. This bad habit will cause teeth to grow in misaligned due to the skeletal changes that take place during a child’s development.

This can cause pain and discomfort as permanent adult teeth grow in, and chances are high that your child will need braces or oral surgery to correct the problem. The best advice we can give is to stop this behavior from becoming a problem before it’s too late.


When is it Time to Stop Thumb Sucking?


It’s normal and healthy for infants to suck their thumbs. However, according to the American Dental Association (ADA) children should be discouraged from sucking their thumbs or on pacifiers by the time they are four years old.

What happens when this behavior continues after four years of age?The thumb sucking habit can lead to changes in the development of their palate. This can lead to an adverse effect on their permanent bite later in life. It can also become increasingly hard for the child to cope with stress in an alternative way.


How do I Stop My Child from Thumb Sucking?


The good news is that children usually stop sucking on their thumbs naturally as they get older. Some parents believe the best strategy is to ignore the behavior and let the child figure things out for themselves. For example, by kindergarten, the child will most likely cave to more socially acceptable behaviors that do not include thumb sucking. Peer pressure isn’t always a positive thing, but in this case, it could help reduce the child’s need to suck their thumb.

If, however, your child continues to suck their thumbs beyond kindergarten, you may want to seek professional help. In the meantime, try these tactics.

  • Use a pacifier for infants instead of allowing them to rely on their thumbs. If they never start the habit, you never have to worry about fixing it.
  • Have an honest discussion with your child about the dangers of thumb sucking at their age. Share photos and communicate with him or her about peer pressure and normal social behavior. You can schedule an appointment with us, and we can have a talk with your kids about thumb sucking as well.
  • Use lots of praise and even create a reward system for good behavior. As adults, we all know habits are hard to break. It’s no different for a child, so have patience and use praise.

Thumb sucking can be a tricky problem to navigate, but our experts at Danville Family Dental can help put your kids on the right track for excellent oral health. Call us today at 317-745-4400 to schedule an appointment.

Disclaimer: The information included in this article is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.