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Dental Health

When Does Thumb-Sucking Become a Dental Problem For Your Child?
Jul 9, 2018

little girl with thumbs up Dental Care Center

Thumb-sucking is a completely normal reflex children and babies. Thumb-sucking can manifest itself as a pacifier, fingers, or other objects as well. This action can act as a coping mechanism for anxiety, as it allows for your child to feel calm and can even sooth them as they go to sleep.

Of course you want your child to feel comfortable in the world, but if done for too long, thumb-sucking can start to affect your children’s teeth. Children normally stop thumb-sucking between the ages of two and four years old — right before adult teeth are ready to grow.

When Does This Start to Become a Problem?

Some dentists disagree on the exact time to start discouraging your child to stop thumb-sucking. Some argue it’s OK to wait until after your child has started to lose baby teeth. Others suggest that you should discourage the behavior as soon as possible so that you can avoid trying to solve the problem later in life.

The problem with keeping the habit too long is that it can affect your child’s teeth alignment. This becomes a bigger problem if your child is an aggressive thumb sucker, rather than for children who suck their thumbs passively.

What Can You Do to End the Habit?

  1. Make sure you praise your child when he/she is not sucking his/her thumb. They will find it helpful to see a positive reward.
  2. Ask your child’s dentist to explain to them why they should not suck their thumb. The dentist will have experience with this issue and will know some approaches that work well with children.
  3. Understand if there is an underlying problem that could be causing your child anxiety, in which they turn to thumb-sucking as an act of comfort. You may want to speak with your family doctor to understand and correct the source of anxiety.
  4. If your child happens to be older, allow them to decide the best method of correcting this problem. He/she  will appreciate feeling as though he/she is in control of their situation.
  5. It is also possible to bandage or cover the thumb during the day and at night to discourage your child from passive sucking.


If you have questions about your child’s teeth, contact us today.