The Dangers of Thumb Sucking

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Dental Advice

The Dangers of Thumb Sucking

Virtually all young children suck their thumbs to at least some extent. It’s a natural reflex that can be very comforting, a source of security, and even a way to help a child go to sleep. However, sucking on thumbs – or fingers or pacifiers – can have a detrimental effect on the development of your child’s incoming teeth, their bite alignment, and their smile.


The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says that thumb sucking is usually nothing to worry about until the age of four.


Fortunately, most children no longer suck on thumbs, fingers or pacifiers by that age. However, if your child is 4 or older and is still a thumb- or finger-sucker, it’s important that you understand the reason or reasons for this behavior.


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It could be that it’s simply an absent-minded habit similar to fingernail biting or hair chewing. In that case, gentle reminders when you observe the thumb- or finger-sucking will probably be all it takes to help them break the habit.

On the other hand, thumb- or finger-sucking after a child’s fourth birthday could be the child’s natural response to anxiety or fear they might be experiencing. In this case, you should try to identify what might be triggering that anxiety or fear. Once you do, you can reassure your child whenever – as well as before and after – those triggers are activated. And since your child is sucking on their thumb or fingers not to misbehave but to seek comfort, please make sure to offer positive rather than negative reinforcement.


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