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Thumb Sucking

Why Does My Child Like to Suck Their Thumb?

Young children and infants often suck on their thumbs, objects or pacifiers simply out of reflex. They may do so to feel happy and satisfied or to feel secure when they are faced with a stressful situation. Sucking their thumbs also helps them to go to sleep.

If your child sucks their thumb after their permanent teeth have grown in, it might create problems such as their teeth growing out of alignment. The intensity at which the child sucks on the thumb or fingers will be the determining factor as to how much dental damage there will be. Children who suck their thumbs and fingers continuously are at a higher risk of suffering from dental problems compared to those who only do so continuously.

Most children will stop sucking their thumbs around 2-4 years old. This is way before the time when permanent teeth start to grow in.

If you are concerned, try the following suggestions to help you to ease child out of this habit:

  • Do not scold your child or children when you see them sucking their thumb or finger. Instead, give them praise when you see they are not sticking any thumb or finger in their mouth.
  • Thumb sucking is often a child's way of dealing with feeling insecure. Focus on dealing with any anxiety they may be dealing with and this will reduce the occurrence of thumb sucking.
  • If your child sucks their thumb to feel comfortable, try to find something to replace the habit, such as hugging a stuffed animal.
  • Tie your child’s thumb with a bandage or place a sock on it at night. Remind them that it is there to help them stop sucking their thumbs.

Pacifiers should never be used to substitute thumb sucking. They affect the teeth in the same way. With that said, the continuous use of a pacifier could be controlled with much more ease than trying to control thumb sucking. If you have any concerns regarding a pacifier or thumb sucking it is best to consult your child's dentist for more clarifications.

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