Thumbsucking and How it Affects Your Child as They Grow

Thumbsucking and How it Affects Your Child as They Grow

A child’s tendency to suck his or her thumb can happen before birth and is a natural rooting mechanism that helps children feel secure, soothed and confident.  But when is your child supposed to stop and what types of effects do long-term thumbsucking carry? Read on for the latest information.

Thumbsucking Age Limits

At Medplex, we typically tell parents to try and wean your child off thumbsucking by four-years-of-age to eliminate any long term issues it may cause. Weaning is not easy, but it can be accomplished. Here are some tips for weaning off thumbsucking:

Ideas for Weaning Off Thumbsucking

  1. Ask us for help! We can talk to your child during an appointment about why it’s important to stop sucking their thumbs. Sometimes all it takes is another adult they are comfortable with to give them the extra push to stop.


  1. Make it fun. We definitely don’t want to take a comforting mechanism away from your child without letting them know you are proud of their accomplishment. Create a rewards system for your child that allows them to receive a star or acknowledgement when they’ve decided to keep from popular thumbsucking times throughout the day.


  1. Remind your child that they are a “big girl” or “big boy”. Children aspire to be older than they are, especially around the age when they should kick the thumbsucking habit. Use encouraging language around how big girls and boys don’t suck their thumbs to get them to consider stopping. Always compliment good behavior!


  1. They won’t do it forever! You probably haven’t seen a ton of college students sucking their thumbs, so the good news is that this habit will eventually come to an end. Always use positive reinforcement when getting your child to do away with a habit like thumbsucking. Punishment and negativity from a parent can discourage them from ending the habit.


What Happens with Long-Term Thumbsucking?

Thumbsucking can cause the upper jaw to become narrower and that may make the teeth not properly meet from top to bottom. It can also cause speech problems and make a cross-bite worse. Many of these ailments can be fixed with braces but causing this type of disparity among their teeth can affect the shape of their jaw as they grow and can make normal pediatric dental issues worse.



Medplex Pediatric Dentistry serves as a pediatric dentist in Hoover, Alabaster, Birmingham, Calera,  Helena, and Pelham, AL.