Some people can see their baby sucking its thumb as early as a mid-pregnancy ultrasound. Thumbsucking is very common and usually cures itself between the ages of 3 and 6 years-old.

Prolonged thumb-sucking may cause the teeth to become improperly aligned (malocclusion) or push the teeth outward. This usually corrects itself when the child stops thumb-sucking. Another complication may be speech issues. Speech problems caused by thumb-sucking can include not being able to say Ts and Ds, lisping, and thrusting out the tongue when talking. Finally, the longer thumb-sucking continues, the more likely orthodontic treatment will be needed.

When is thumbsucking a problem?

Although it may be hard to watch, we suggest ignoring thumbsucking in kids who are preschool age or younger. Treatment is only recommended if intensity increases after age 4, you notice speech issues or if your child is being teased by other kids. Regardless, we are here to work with you on an action plan to get it corrected.

Tips to stop thumbsucking

  • Praise your child when they are not sucking.
  • Since thumbsucking can be a security blanket type habit, focus on figuring out the root of anxiety and provide comfort to your child accordingly.
  • For an older child, involve him or her in choosing the method of stopping.
  • Work with us to offer encouragement to your child and explain what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop sucking.

If these tips don’t work, remind the child of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night. We can also prescribe a bitter medication to coat the thumb or begin the use of a mouth appliance if required.

Adapted from