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Thumb Sucking

The Problems with Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is a natural source of comfort for children; sucking on thumbs, fingers and dummies makes babies and young children feel secure and happy.  There are even images of babies sucking digits in the womb – perhaps your child is one of those!  The habit can also kick in when children are bored, tired or anxious.  Most children stop by the time they are 4 or 5 years of age, and this normally happens quite naturally without too much encouragement.

However, thumb sucking in children older than this, as every dentist knows, can have a detrimental effect on the development of children’s teeth and mouth.  Thumb or finger sucking can be a very difficult habit to break, no matter how much the child wants to give up, and one that can cause lifelong dental problems which can only be solved with through orthodontic or surgical treatment.

When thumb or finger sucking starts (normally from birth) a baby’s bones are very soft and still forming, so this means that in the soft palate is constantly pushed upward by the thumb or finger and can malform.  Alarmingly, if continued for a long time, the habit can also change the growth of the face and it can cause the collapse of the upper jaw. It stops the teeth from biting together at the front, this can then lead to other problems, most commonly the upper front teeth being prominent which in turn affects speech and the bit of the teeth.  It is more difficult to correct malocclusion (irregular contact of upper and lower jaw) caused by thumb sucking.

By the time a child start school, thumb or finger sucking may cause social anxiety and embarrassment, and a fear of being thought of as ‘babyish’ by older children.  Children who suck their fingers or thumb in class often lose concentration and ‘zone out’; they stop when reminded by staff, but the cycle normally quickly repeats itself.

Finger and thumb sucking inevitably means that a child is constantly putting potentially dirty digits into their mouth.  While some may argue that exposing a child to germs improves their immune system, thumb and finger sucking increases the risk of ingesting harmful bacteria.

Problems caused by thumb sucking:

  • Teeth don’t bite together
  • Protruding teeth
  • Speech problems
  • Chewing problems
  • Malformation of the jaw
  • Sore skin around the mouth and on digits
  • Social anxiety/embarrassment
  • Lack of concentration or ‘zoning out’
  • Hygiene issues
  • Stress and upset trying to break an intractable habit

After reading this you might like to look at the options to help your child to stop thumb sucking. We’ve researched the market to compare anti-thumb sucking devices that are available to you. We’ve included the most common solutions that you might like to consider.

Read what three British dentists are saying about the problems with thumb sucking.


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Tips on How to Stop Thumb Sucking

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