Baby Sucking Their Thumb

Thumb Sucking Habits: What should I do?

Aug 2, 2012


Thumb sucking is a common habit in young children and is often times associated with hunger, fatigue, stress, sleep, teething, and shyness. In fact, some children are seen upon ultrasound sucking their thumbs. The intensity of the thumb habit and frequency of sucking as well asthe pattern of jaw growth determines whether dental problems develop. Thumb habits can result in reshaping of the jawbone (narrow upper jaw), flaring of the upper front teeth, poor tongue placement, speech issues, overbite and open bite, and airway issues.

It is important to know that a thumb sucking habit will typically stop on its own and that, ideally, it will stop BEFORE the permanent teeth erupt. Once the permanent first molars erupt (usually age 6), there can be changes to the direction of the growth of the jaws. If your child cannot stop by age 4, I recommend a few things. First, talk to them about the reasons for stopping the habit and encourage them with positive reinforcement when they do not suck their thumb. Set up an incentive system to reward their progress. The most negative reinforcement I recommend is a special nail polish (No-Bite) designed for this purpose.

If the thumb habit is still present at age 6, there may be some orthodontic issues developing so I recommend a consultation to find the most appropriate method for addressing the problem and reversing the dental effects.

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