Call Us:

Is Thumb Sucking Bad?
By Dr. Tracht and Dr. Briskie
November 07, 2011
Category: Tips


Welcome to Dr. Tracht and Dr. Briskie’s blog! As specialists in pediatric dentistry, we are often asked about a wide-range of topics that are important considerations to keeping your children healthy.  

Today we’re sharing insight from the pediatric dentist’s perspective on a very common concern for parents of little ones:

Is thumb sucking bad? Can thumb sucking lead to permanent damage?

The answer: It all depends.

It’s not uncommon to see a baby put a variety of things into his or her mouth – a favorite toy, a finger – maybe even a toe. Sucking is a natural reflex for babies and offers a sense of relaxation, comfort or security.

Prolonged sucking habits can interfere with the proper growth of the jaws and tooth alignment. How intensely a child sucks, and the length of time, influence the degree of dental problems. Children who suck their thumb, fingers or pacifier commonly develop problems with their front teeth sticking out too far (from the persistent pressure of sucking), or with the front teeth not able to bite together. Children who rest their thumbs or fingers passively in their mouths will have less distortion than those who suck vigorously.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, most children stop thumb sucking between the ages of two and four. However, as pediatric dentists, Dr. Tracht and Dr. Briskie see some children continue sucking well beyond the preschool years. If your child is still sucking after age 4, it is time to consider taking action.

Should you need to help your child end the habit, Dr. Tracht and Dr. Briskie recommend these tips approved by the American Dental Association:

  • Praise children for not sucking, instead of scolding them when they are.
  • Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure or needing comfort. Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety and provide comfort to your child.
  • For an older child, involve him or her in choosing the method of stopping.

As pediatric dentists, Dr. Tracht and Dr. Briskie can offer encouragement to your child and explain the consequences of long term sucking habits.Additionally, our pediatric specialists are happy to offer habit control intervention programs, appliances, including early orthodontic treatment when necessary.

Are pacifiers a better alternative?

Not in all cases. Pacifiers can affect the teeth and jaws the same as fingers or thumbs, but can be more easily controlled. There are some pacifiers that have been designed to cause less bite distortion than others.

Do you have questions about your child’s non-nutritive sucking habit? Give Dr. Tracht and Dr. Briskie, Specialists in Pediatric Dentistry a call or schedule an appointment. See here for more information about what we do and how we can help the little ones you love.

Remember, you can stay in the loop and join us as we share valuable insight by Liking us on FACEBOOK, Dr. Tracht and Dr. Briskie, and following us on Twitter @TrachtBriskie.

Thanks for reading!