Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking & pacifier use
Babies are born with several natural reflexes, including the sucking reflex.  It’s a natural reflex, and most infants/children will suck their  thumb, finger, or pacifier. The sucking reflex often creates a sense of calm in babies and young children, and helps them to relax and self-soothe. It often leads to a nap or deep sleep.

However, sucking one’s thumb or pacifier beyond the eruption of the permanent teeth can cause serious growth problems in the mouth and with tooth alignment. The intensity of the sucking motion will determine whether or not a dental problem will result.  We know that children who just rest their thumbs passively in their mouths (as a habit of placement) with the sucking reflex are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs or a pacifier.

Children should cease thumb sucking and/or pacifier use by the time their permanent front teeth are ready to erupt, typically between the ages of four and six. If allowed to persist into elementary school,  peer pressure causes many school-aged children to stop.

A few suggestions to help your child lose the pacifier or stop sucking their thumb:

Use positive reinforcement – praise your child when they refrain from sucking.
Reward  your child  when he/she refrains from sucking during especially difficult periods (sickness, separation, and times of discomfort).
Work on identifying and relieving  causes of anxiety that cause this habit
Provide extra comfort and support for your child, and help them to stay busy and interested in other things.
Dr. Riehs can work with your child to encourage them to stop sucking by explain the consequences.

Remind the children of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night. Your pediatric dentist may also suggest use of a mouth appliance.