Is thumb sucking hurting my child’s teeth?

Question: My 8-year-old is still working to break her thumb sucking habit. Is this hurting her teeth and any advice to help her stop?

Answer: Sucking on a thumb or finger is normal for infants and young children and most children stop on their own. However, if a child doesn’t stop on their own, we do advise parents to discourage the pacifier habit ideally after age 2.   Thumb habits are much more difficult to break and may require help from the dentist between the ages of 4-6.  Prolonged thumb sucking can lead to crooked teeth and bite problems affecting both baby teeth and permanent teeth that are developing, causing upper front teeth to tip outward and upper jaw to narrow in the back.

 Be sure to use a positive approach and focus on praising your child when they are  not thumb sucking. Initially, you could try limiting the time and location thumb sucking occurs, for example only at home or only while the child is in their bedroom to help them ease out of the habit.  For specific tips to help your child stop her thumb sucking habit, give Dr. Litz a call.  She can offer advice and make recommendations based on your child’s demeanor and explain the effects on teeth to your child in an appropriate manner during your regular check-ups. Often, this advice, along with support from parents, enables many children to quit.


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