Thumb-sucking, finger-sucking, and pacifier use can cause malocclusion (poor bite) in young children. But when a child stops the sucking habit, the teeth naturally begin moving back to their normal positions.
Infants are born with a natural sucking reflex, and it's common for this reflex to evolve into a comforting behavior. But thumb- and finger-sucking and pacifier use for more than 4 to 6 hours per 24 hours can eventually:
The sooner a child stops sucking on a finger, thumb, or pacifier, the better for incoming permanent teeth. Pediatricians and pediatric dentists recommend that you take your child to see a dentist if your child is 4 years old and still has a sucking habit.1 If this habit lasts until age 5 or 6, your child's permanent incisors probably won't come in straight. And your child may need orthodontic treatment to help align the teeth.
Treating sucking habits in children isn't usually necessary. Most children stop on their own. Most parents find it easier to wean a child from pacifier use than from thumb- or finger-sucking. Children who continue to suck their thumbs till early school age may feel pressure from their peers and may decide to stop then.
Treatment for thumb-sucking is a controversial topic. Some children are not ready or able to stop their sucking habit, despite their dentists' or parents' decision that they must. Some parents and professionals believe that when a child won't cooperate, the treatment won't be effective. It could even be traumatic and may prolong the habit. Others believe that it's sometimes necessary to try to stop the habit without the child's cooperation.
Treatment to stop a sucking habit works best if your child is involved in the treatment and agrees to try to stop. By educating your child, staying neutral, and not being critical, you can help your child get ready for sacrificing a long-held habit. Consider these tips when helping your child quit thumb-sucking or related habits.
For more information, see the topic Thumb-Sucking.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||William F. Hohlt, DDS - Orthodontics|
|Last Revised||July 25, 2012|
Last Revised: July 25, 2012
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