CHOC Children's

Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is one of the most common habits of children. The habit starts early in life, with 90 percent of newborns showing some form of hand sucking by two hours of age.

Thumb sucking is normal in infants and young children and should cause no permanent problems if it is not continued past the age of four to five. Likewise, it is generally harmless for infants to use pacifiers.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry states that most children stop thumb sucking on their own between the ages of 2 and 4. The Academy states there is no reason to be concerned until the front teeth start erupting. At this point, some problems may occur, including bite problems, or protruding front teeth. Other problems that may occur with thumb sucking are sore thumbs, infections, and calluses on the thumb.

It is thought that pacifier use may actually be better than thumb sucking for the following reasons:

  • Pacifiers are softer and cause less damage to the teeth.
  • The plastic rim on the pacifier provides some relief of the tension placed on the teeth.
  • Pacifiers can be cleaned.
Consult your child’s pediatric dentist if you are concerned with your child’s thumb sucking. Any changes in the relationship of the upper jaw to the lower jaw should be monitored by the dentist. If extreme changes occur, orthodontic problems will arise, speech problems can be made worse and even feeding can be affected.

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It is important to remember the health information found on this website is for reference only not intended to replace the advice and guidance of your healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.

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