Your Child’s Thumb Sucking Might be Causing Harm

Thumb sucking is a natural reflex for young children, and it is almost always something they do for comfort. Sucking on thumbs, fingers or pacifiers can be very comforting and make a young child feel secure, and can even help them fall asleep. However, finger sucking can be very detrimental for a developing smile, and it can have negative effects on the incoming teeth and your child’s bite alignment. When should you be concerned about your child sucking on their fingers? Read below to find out when you should start helping your child break the habit.

According the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, thumb sucking is generally not a concern until after the age of 4. By that time, most thumb and finger sucking habits have long since ceased.

Anxiety, or Habit?

If your child is a thumb or finger sucker past the age of 4, it’s important to understand why they are engaging in the behavior. For some children, thumb sucking is an absent-minded habit not unlike fingernail biting, hair chewing or rolling a favorite blanket between the fingers. For those kids, giving gentle reminders when you observe the behavior can be enough to help them break the habit.

For others, this behavior can be an attempt to self-soothe when feeling anxious, scared or tired. If you think your child is sucking his/her fingers and thumb out of anxiety or when fearful, it’s important that that you try to identify what is triggering that response. Once you know what those triggers are, you can move to reassure your child before, during and after those experiences. Perhaps offer small incentives that are aimed at stopping the behavior.

It’s important to keep in mind that a child that is sucking on his/her fingers for comfort is not necessarily misbehaving, so be sure to offer encouragement and support instead of negative reinforcement.

Find a Local Pediatric Dentist to Help

If you are concerned that your child’s prolonged thumb or finger sucking is causing dental issues that need attention, we encourage you to find a pediatric dentist near you and schedule an evaluation. Sometimes, a simple, friendly chat with your pediatric dentist is enough to convince an older child to break the habit completely.

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