Thumb Sucking

Why do kids thumb-suck?

Thumb-sucking is a normal behavior among babies and young children. Even inside the womb, fetuses start to thumb-suck. Among their age group, this is an important behavior as this gives them a:

  • Sense of security
  • Sense of happiness
  • Way to make contact with and learn about the world
  • Way to soothe themselves
  • Way to induce sleep

This activity peaks around 1 to 2 years old. Thereafter, children stop thumb-sucking on their own. Children should be encouraged to stop; if they continue to thumb-suck, as dental problems develop after 4 to 5 years of age.

For older children, how will it affect their teeth?

If older children continue to thumb-suck, this may affect the teeth and jaws since:

  • The upper front teeth may bend outward or become crooked
  • It may cause malocclusion or misalignment of the upper and lower jaws
  • It may hinder the growth of the jaws and bones that support the teeth
  • It can cause changes in the roof of the mouth

Aside from thumb-sucking, prolonged use of pacifiers can cause the same problems. Because persistent habits may cause long-term problems, intervention may be recommended for children beyond 3 years of age.