Thumb-sucking habit

thumb-sucking in the womb

thumb-sucking in the womb

If, as a parent, you are concerned with your child’s thumb-sucking, you must not worry! The action of thumb-sucking is a natural process which develops in the womb while your baby is learning to breast-feed. This occurs as early as 14 weeks as a fetus and it continues into early childhood.

After birth, until the age of about sixteen months, your child may suck their thumb or fingers. I feel that after the child reaches a year old, the parents should discard of any pacifiers or soothers and only use feeding bottles and sippy cups for feeding. Don’t let your child wander around the house with a bottle in his mouth because you are promoting the sucking habit.  The child should naturally stop the habit gradually. Thumb-sucking or sucking on fingers is also occurring while the child is teething. Try to give an alternative like a teething ring to help save those little fingers from being chewed.

Tough love early on will greatly reduce the formation of an attachment or an emotional soothing mechanism for your child. Remember to nurture and give your child plenty of affection. Also, be tough and set strict boundaries for sleep time and stick with it.

It is important to stop the habit of thumb-sucking before the age of five. The eruption and placement of adult teeth is greatly affected by thumb-sucking and can lead to improper bite, gum disease, speech problems, and not to mention, ridicule and embarrassment by other children and family members.

thumb habit appliance

thumb habit appliance

If nothing seems to break the habit, certain devices can be used like permanent orthodontic appliances or thumb and finger gadgets. Your dental professional will advise you to see an orthodontist for a consultation. Here is a picture of an appliance fixed to the first adult molar teeth and it spans across the top palate. It has blunt metal projections which make it difficult to form a seal around the thumb or fingers.

adult class II open bite from thumb-sucking

from thumb-sucking

Orthodontic correction will be necessary if the permanent dentition erupts in a mal-occlusion. This means the teeth come in with an improper bite. The treatment can be postponed until the child reaches an older age if the thumb-sucking habit still hasn’t been broken. Orthodontics can be preformed at any age but there is more likeliness of gum disease and bone loss in adulthood.


Great books on breaking the thumb-sucking habit. Just click  on the right panel to my top recommends.