top of page

Watch and Learn: Thumb Sucking and Dental Health

Ever wonder about the effects of thumb sucking on your children’s dental health? The latest in our series of videos addresses just this issue. Some of the information presented includes:

– Know that the sucking reflex is natural, and shouldn’t cause alarm when children are infants or toddlers. In fact, babies suck on their thumbs even in the womb. – Children derive pleasure, comfort and security from the sucking reflex. – An aggressive sucking action is a bigger problem than a less aggressive reflex. A lot of muscle contraction in the face when sucking the thumb or fingers means there is an aggressive reflex present, which can cause more oral health issues. – Three is the ideal age for children to have stopped sucking their thumbs, but most kids will stop between 2-4 on their own, without any sort of intervention. – Thumb and finger sucking that is aggressive or sustained over a long period can cause a range of dental issues. Upper and lower jaws are very soft at this age, and can mold to the form of the thumb. This can make the palate too narrow and change the tooth position, as well as create an issue with arch formation. This can cause an overbite, which may make orthodontics necessary to correct the problems. – Most dentists will say that pacifiers are preferable to thumb or finger sucking when it is age appropriate as they are removable and it’s easier to wean children from them. Tips include:

– Give it time if they are still within the “normal” age range for thumb sucking unless there are other concerns present. – Have their dentist check and see if there are any problems before panicking. – If it’s necessary to wean your child from thumb sucking, use gentle behavior modification to start such as a reward system, rather than punitive measures. Remember, your child is sucking for comfort, and punitive measures will only make things worse. – You can try to move them to a pacifier if they are very young and sucking on thumb or fingers.

Generally, this change needs to be made before the age of one for it to be effective.

If your child sucks his or her thumb and you have concerns about their oral health, please give our Ann Arbor dental practice a call today at 734-677-2156 or contact us via our website to make an appointment on their behalf to be seen.

– Dr. Shannon Norman-Kotre, Ann Arbor Dentist


bottom of page