Sucking on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects make some babies feel secure and contented. Children may also suck to soothe themselves and help them fall asleep. However, after permanent teeth come in, sucking may cause problems with alignment of the teeth. It can also cause changes in the roof of the mouth. Pacifiers can cause the same problems that are caused by sucking fingers and thumbs, but it is often easier to break the pacifier habit.

How forcefully a child sucks his or her thumb or pacifier can determine whether or not dental problems might result. If a child rests his or her thumb in their mouths, without actually sucking, they are less likely to have difficulties compared to those who strongly suck their thumbs. More aggressive thumbsuckers may even have problems with their baby teeth.

Between the ages of 2 and 4 years old, children usually stop sucking on thumbs or pacifiers. If you are concerned about your child’s thumbsucking, or if you notice changes in your child’s primary teeth, please call us for consultation.

Some suggestions to help your child stop the sucking habit:

  • Praise your child for not sucking.
  • Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure or needing comfort. Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety and determine how best to provide comfort to your child.
  • Let us know about the habit so we can encourage your child to stop when visiting. We may also recommend a bitter topical be applied to the thumb.
  • For older children, involve him or her in choosing the method of stopping.
  • If all else fails, try reminding your child of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand.