Thumb sucking is natural.  It’s a mammal thing—the sucking instinct gives us comfort and can help make children sleepy.  It provides comfort.

But if thumb sucking or the use of a pacifier goes on too long, it can create significant dental problems.Thumbs Up

Prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier use can lead to open bite, where the teeth don’t come into contact with each other.  This can impede speech and swallowing, and can even change the appearance of the person’s face.  It’s recommended that children be encouraged to stop thumb sucking or pacifier use between the ages of two and five. The permanent teeth begin to come in between 6 and 8 years of age. At this time, there is cause for concern.

But this can be easier said than done.

To help your child stop thumb sucking, start by comforting him or her.  Feeling secure helps reduce the instinct.  It’s also better to praise the child for not sucking his or her thumb, rather than scolding. If your child sucks his or her thumb when they are bored, try introducing a fun activity to re-direct their attention. And as the child gets older, explaining the dangers to continued thumb sucking can help discourage the practice.

If all else fails, there are dental appliances that can be used to help your child break the habit.

Concerned over your child’s thumb sucking or pacifier use?  Use our Ask The Expert feature to get your questions answered.

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