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KnowWhattodotoEaseYourChildOutoftheThumbSuckingHabit

Thumb or finger sucking is a normal activity for babies and young children — they begin the habit while still in the womb and may continue it well into the toddler stage. Problems with tooth development and alignment could arise, however, if the habit persists for too long.

It’s a good idea, then, to monitor your child’s sucking habits during their early development years. There are also a few things you can do to wean them off the habit before it can cause problems down the road.

  • Eliminate your child’s use of pacifiers by eighteen months of age. Studies have shown that the sucking action generated through pacifiers could adversely affect a child’s bite if they are used after the age of 2. Weaning your child off pacifiers by the time they are a year and a half old will reduce the likelihood of that occurring.
  • Encourage your child to stop thumb or finger sucking by age 3. Most children tend to stop thumb or finger sucking on their own between the ages of 2 and 4. As with pacifiers, if this habit continues into later childhood it could cause the upper front teeth to erupt out of position and tip toward the lip. The upper jaw also may not develop normally.
  • Replace your child’s baby bottle with a training cup around one year of age. Our swallowing mechanism changes as we grow; introducing your child to a training cup at around a year old will encourage them to transition from “sucking” to “sipping,” and make it easier to end the thumb or finger sucking habit.
  • Begin regular dental visits for your child by their first birthday. The Age One visit will help you establish a regular habit of long-term dental care. It’s also a great opportunity to evaluate your child’s sucking habits and receive helpful advice on reducing it in time.

While your child’s thumb or finger sucking isn’t something to panic over, it does bear watching. Following these guidelines will help your child leave the habit behind before it causes any problems.

If you would like more information on children’s thumb-sucking and its effect on dental development, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Thumb Sucking in Children.”

By David E. Habecker DDS
November 19, 2012
Category: Oral Health
TheFactsAboutThumbSucking

One topic we are often asked about is finger or thumb sucking and/or pacifier use — a challenge that most parents or caregivers will likely face with at least one of their children. The first and perhaps most important thing to remember is that it is totally normal for babies and young children to suck their fingers, thumb or a pacifier. It only becomes a problem when it continues as the child ages or if you unnecessarily make it a problem.

For most children, the sucking instinct starts in the womb before birth. This fact is evident, as many expectant mothers are shown their child sucking fingers or a thumb during a mid or late-term sonogram. Once the child is born, the habit may continue because it provides the child with a sense of security. Other research indicates that some babies start sucking habits as a way to make contact with, test and learn about their new world outside the womb. It is interesting to note that most children typically tend to stop finger or thumb sucking habits on their own and without much intervention between the ages of two and four. However, for others it can continue much longer. And that is the scenario that parents and caregivers need to be aware of so that they can monitor sucking habits.

Children who suck their thumbs or a pacifier after the age of two have a higher risk of developing some long term negative effects from the habit. This includes but is not limited to upper jaw development issues and “buck” teeth (upper front teeth that protrude forward out of a natural position towards the lips). For this reason, some researchers feel that children should cease thumb or finger sucking and/or pacifier use by 18 months of age. However, the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents and caregivers encourage children to cease this habit by age three.

If you feel your child is at risk due to his/her age and habits, please contact us today to schedule an appointment for your child. After a thorough exam, we can work with you to create a strategy for helping your child overcome finger, thumb or pacifier habits. To learn more about this topic, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Thumb Sucking in Children.”