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  • Writer's pictureKelly White


One of the challenges of parenting is that children often cannot communicate their physical discomforts or issues to their parents effectively. This holds true for both illnesses and dental problems. While an infant may cry in pain, they cannot inform you of advanced tooth decay or misaligned teeth resulting from thumb sucking. Indeed, thumb sucking can cause dental issues in some children.

Thumb Sucking: The Unsettling Reality Behind This Soothing Habit

Many infants find comfort in suckling, be it through breastfeeding, bottle feeding, pacifiers, or their thumbs. This action provides them with a sense of security and contentment, often making it easier to settle them down for naps or bedtime. As a result, parents are quick to offer pacifiers or allow thumb sucking.

Before a child develops their primary teeth, thumb sucking does not pose significant risks. However, once teeth emerge, the pressure from thumbs or pacifiers may lead to tooth misalignment and even changes in the palate. Light thumb sucking or pacifier use, where the child only gently holds the object in their mouth, is less harmful. Aggressive thumb suckers, on the other hand, are more likely to experience dental issues later on.

When Do Children Typically Stop Thumb Sucking?

Fortunately, most children naturally outgrow the habit of thumb sucking, usually between the ages of two and four. This is well before the appearance of their permanent teeth. To remember the general teething timeline, children typically begin developing primary teeth around six months old and their first adult teeth around six years old. Keep in mind that individual differences exist, and there is a range of normal oral development.

If your child sucks their thumb, there are strategies to help them break the habit. Firstly, try to eliminate any stressors that might trigger thumb sucking for comfort. Addressing the source of anxiety can help reduce the behavior.

Communicate with your child and encourage them to stop thumb sucking. Praise them when they cease the habit. If the child is old enough to respond to incentives, involve them in selecting the method of stopping and a reward for success. You can also have your dentist discuss the negative effects of thumb sucking on their teeth.

For children struggling to quit, consider placing a bandage on their thumb as a reminder. Your dentist or doctor may prescribe a bitter-tasting, harmless coating for the thumb. Breaking a pacifier habit is often simpler than stopping thumb sucking, as parents can remove a pacifier, but thumbs are always available.

If you are pregnant or have a young child, take a proactive approach to their dental health. Start brushing your child's teeth as soon as they appear, using a soft-bristle toothbrush and a small amount of toothpaste. Schedule a dental checkup within six months of your child's first tooth emerging. Your dentist can provide guidance and answer questions about your child's teeth and tooth formation.

If you notice any changes in your child's primary teeth or have concerns about their thumb sucking, consult us

Dental Associates of West Michigan

(616) 554-5940

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