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. If the sucking habit continues past ages 5 to 7, the permanent incisors probably won't come in straight. Once the sucking habit stops, the permanent teeth will naturally begin to return to their proper positions. Orthodontic treatment may help with this process.
Helping your child quit a sucking habit
Treating sucking habits in children isn't usually necessary. Most children stop on their own sometime between ages 3 and 6. Pacifier use tends to end earlier than thumb- or finger-sucking. 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||January 11, 2011|
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