Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Thumb-Sucking By Babies Is Normal But Could Cause Dental Problems If It Continues Indefinitely


During the early childhood the children find it comforting when they have their favourite blankets, teddy bears etc. Similarly during the sleeping time they find it comforting to suck their thumbs. In some babies the urge to suck the thumbs is much stronger than others. Children suck their thumbs when they are bored, tired or in need of comfort. Thumb-sucking children go off to sleep early and have no problems during sleep. It has been found that the percentage of infants who have the habit of sucking their thumbs vary between 75% and 95%.

Normal Thumb-Sucking Behavior

A large number of children start sucking their thumb or finger at a very young age. In fact some children start this when they are in the womb. Sucking is one of the natural reflexes of the baby and hence it finds comfort in sucking. The child feels secure and contented by sucking thumb, pacifiers, fingers or other objects. Many children suck their thumbs while sleeping because it gives them a sense of relaxation. The thumb-sucking behavior might not cause major problem for their milk teeth.

Problems Caused

Thumb-sucking children might get - buck teeth, open bite, cross bite and crowding of teeth. It is not necessary that the habit of thumb-sucking causes movement of teeth in all cases. Bite changes might cause problems in chewing, swallowing and talking. Thumb-sucking children have a tendency to withdraw themselves when they suck their thumbs. This behavior might interfere with their capacity to learn and also their participation in all activities.

Is it a worrying habit?

Under normal circumstances this is not a cause for getting worried too much. But it is necessary that you carefully observe the child's habits since it could affect its oral health. The intensity of the sucking by the child is very important in deciding whether thumb sucking is harmful to the child or not. If your child sucks his thumb by gently keeping it in his mouth it is passive sucking and will cause no harm. On the other hand, if he puts pressure on his mouth or teeth while sucking it becomes aggressive sucking of thumb and this could cause problems in tooth alignment and also in the growth of his mouth. Such a situation will necessitate orthodontic treatment as he grows old.


  • Praise the child whenever he stops sucking thumb and avoid punishing the child on this account. Be positive as well as supportive.
  • Whenever a child feels insecure or needs comfort it starts sucking its thumb. Hence you must eliminate the reason that causes this anxiety and make the child feel comfortable.
  • Observe the times when the child tends to suck and divert his attention at these times..
  • If the child is old try to talk it over with the child and find a method of stopping by involving him..
  • If your child is on pacifiers you could use the Snip N' Clip Method for getting rid of this habit. Clip the tip of the pacifier every week and the child will start losing interest in sucking it over a period of time..
  • Make your dentist to explain to the child about what happens to its teeth because of thumb sucking..
  • Lastly you could try bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on its hand or coat the thumb/ finger with a bitter medicine or use mouth appliances..

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