Thumbsucking

Q: I need some help! My daughter sucks her thumbs and also three of her fingers. I’m worried that this is causing a problem with her teeth. How do I get her to stop?

A: Please rest assured that thumbsucking is a normal behavior and is cause for little concern. In, fact many babies begin sucking their thumb or fingers even before they are born.

The behavior will continue until age three or four. At that time most children will stop of their own accord. If the thumbsucking continues beyond that age and the child shows no signs of stopping then it may be time to intervene.

Intervention is important because the thumbsucking habit can affect the eruption and position of the permanent front teeth. The permanent teeth will be flared out with large spacing making orthodontics a necessity. In rare cases, it can cause the bones of the fingers to bow.

Fortunately, dental appliances can be fabricated to break the thumbsucking habit. They work so well because while the child can still get the thumb or finger in their mouth they are unable to maintain suction.

These types of appliances are generally made by either pediatric dentists or orthodontists. Your dentist or pediatrician can evaluate your child and make any appropriate referrals.