What is thumb sucking habit

What is a thumb sucking habit?

A sucking habit is when a child sucks their thumb, finger, or dummy during the day and/or night.

How common are these habits?

Thumb and finger sucking is one of the most common habits during childhood. It can begin by the age of 3 months. It is normal for an infant up to the age of 2 to want to suck. Children enjoy this habit. One in every eight children (aged 7-11) has a prolonged digit sucking habit. Girls are more likely to have prolonged digit sucking habits than boys. Dummy habits tend to stop before the adult teeth appear at age 6. If thumb or finger sucking continues beyond the age of 7, when the adult teeth start to appear, problems with the position of the teeth may occur.

Why has my child developed this habit?

There are two possible reasons:

  • The habit provides comfort and security to the child.
  • It is a learned behaviour.

Infants have a natural sucking urge that can persist after breast or bottle feeding. This urge is satisfied with dummy or thumb/finger sucking.

Does every child with a thumb sucking habit develop teeth/bite problems?

No. What happens to the teeth depends on:

  • How often they suck their thumb/finger.
  • How hard they suck their thumb/finger.
  • The age the child stops the habit.

If the child sucks their thumb or finger for more than 6 hours per day or night, this may cause problems with their teeth.

What can I do to stop the habit?

The habit is not easy to stop as the child enjoys it! It may stop during the day before it stops at night time.

The child must want to stop the habit.

You can try the following:

  • Encourage your child. Use a wall chart and daily reward system to help the child stop the habit.
  • Praise your child for not sucking their thumb. Give daily encouragement.
  • Avoid nagging, teasing, punishing, or shaming the child. Be positive. Build up their self-esteem.
  • Use a reminder or physical barrier such as a sticky plaster, bandage, cotton glove, sock, thumb guard, or a bitter-tasting paint-on nail varnish.

What can my dentist do?

Your dentist can offer advice about thumb sucking. They may also discuss the use of a ‘habit-breaker’ dental appliance, which makes thumb sucking more difficult. There may be a charge for this service.

What happens to the teeth when the habit stops?

If a sucking habit stops by the age of 7, the teeth can often correct themselves with normal growth. If the habit continues beyond the age of 7, the position of the adult teeth can be permanently affected, and self-correction is less likely to occur. The child may require complex orthodontic treatment (braces) in the future to attempt to correct the tooth position. However, orthodontic treatment cannot start until the habit has completely stopped because the treatment is unlikely to be successful.

Does a dummy have the same effect as a thumb or finger sucking habit?

Dummy (pacifier) sucking can also move the baby teeth. Dummies appear to cause fewer problems as this habit normally stops before the adult teeth appear at age 7. A dummy habit is easier to stop than a thumb/finger habit. Children who use a dummy are less likely to become thumb or finger suckers. The dummy should never be sweetened, otherwise the teeth will decay.

Things to remember

  • As with all habits, the longer it lasts, the harder it is to stop!
  • The sooner the habit stops, the less the effect.
  • Orthodontic treatment cannot start until the habit has stopped.
  • The child must want to stop.
  • Never sweeten the dummy.

Thumb sucking habit frequently asked questions

When to stop thumb sucking?

Children should stop thumb sucking by age 4 to 5 to avoid dental issues like misalignment. Encourage stopping earlier if it persists. Consult a dentist for guidance if necessary.

How to stop thumb sucking?

Positive Reinforcement: Praise and reward your child for not sucking their thumb.
Distraction: Keep their hands busy with toys or activities.
Limit Triggers: Identify and reduce situations that trigger thumb sucking, like boredom or stress.
Gentle Reminders: Gently remind your child to stop when you notice them sucking their thumb.
Thumb Guards: Use a thumb guard or bandage to discourage the habit.

Is thumb sucking bad?

Thumb sucking can be bad if it continues beyond age 4-5, as it may cause dental issues like misalignment and affect the roof of the mouth. It’s important to address the habit early to avoid long-term problems with teeth alignment and jaw development. Consult a dentist if thumb sucking persists.

How to stop child from sucking thumb?

Positive Reinforcement: Praise and reward them for not sucking their thumb.
Distraction: Keep their hands occupied with toys or activities.
Limit Triggers: Identify and reduce situations that lead to thumb sucking, such as boredom or stress.
Gentle Reminders: Calmly remind them to stop when you see them sucking their thumb.
Thumb Guards: Consider using thumb guards or bandages to discourage the habit.

Why do i suck my thumb?

Thumb sucking is often a comforting habit that starts in infancy. It can be a response to stress, boredom, or a way to self-soothe. For some, the habit continues into childhood or beyond due to its calming effect. If you’re concerned about your thumb sucking, consider discussing it with a healthcare professional for advice on breaking the habit.

Why do kids suck their thumb?

Kids suck their thumbs for comfort and security, often starting in infancy. This habit helps them self-soothe, feel safe, and cope with stress or boredom. It can be a natural reflex that provides a sense of relaxation and familiarity. Most children stop on their own between ages 2 and 4.

Book Appointment

Smilepoint Dental provides professional, meticulous care, in-house specialists, and assistance with insurance claims for expats. Book an appointment with us today!
Book Now

Learn more: WikiPedia(Thumb sucking)