Complications of Thumb Sucking

A baby sucking on their thumb is a common action. Babies suck on their thumbs, fingers, pacifiers, or anything nearby because it makes them feel secure. It’s also a learning tool. But, while many babies grow out of this habit, some young children still rely on thumb sucking to fall asleep or as a nervous habit.

The problem with thumb sucking beyond 1-2 years old is that it can affect how the permanent teeth erupt and align. In some cases, even the roof of the mouth can change shape.

But it’s not just thumb sucking that’s the issue. A baby who doesn’t give up a pacifier is at risk as well. Most children will give up sucking on their thumbs or pacifiers by the age of 2 on their own. Most changes caused by a thumb or pacifier habit are reversible, especially when the habit stops before 3 years old.

If your child hasn’t broken the habit or is an aggressive thumb sucker, here are a few tips you can try in order to help them:

  • If you feel anxiety or nervousness is the cause behind your child’s thumb sucking, work on developing other comforting techniques and confronting the case of the anxiety in a healthy manner.
  • If your child is old enough, discuss how they would like to stop the habit. Putting them in control often yields better results.
  • When your child is successful, praise them. But don’t punish relapses.
  • Always start with positive reinforcement (i.e. a sticker chart).

If you have concerns about your child’s thumb sucking or pacifier habits, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with us. We can quickly evaluate the severity and help your child break the habit in a positive manner.