Thumb Sucking and Dental Hygiene: What You Need to Know

Close up of baby sucking thumbMost studies show that anywhere from 75% to 95% of infants suck on their thumbs. In the majority of cases, this is not a cause of concern or anything you need to worry about. On this page, you'll find out more about what you need to know about thumb sucking and dental hygiene, and what you may want to watch for or be prepared for. Addressing the effects of thumb sucking at our Woodinville practice is just one of the many pediatric services we offer for our younger patients. 

Many children begin sucking on their thumbs even inside the womb, and the vast majority of infants suck their thumbs for at least a period, as mentioned above. It's a relaxing form of comfort and security for them, and it's natural.

The American Dental Association (ADA) notes that thumb-sucking typically stops naturally between two and four years of age as children grow out of it. If your child doesn't grow out of it by the time his or her permanent teeth are erupting, that's when you may want to pay more attention and potentially intervene.

Keep in mind, there are different types of thumb-sucking behavior. Passive, calm thumb-sucking, with the thumb gently resting inside the mouth won't cause much or any damage. More aggressive thumb-sucking behavior with pressure applied could lead to problems with tooth alignment and growth, bacterial infections, and even the shape of the jaw and face.

Ways to Stop a Child from Sucking His Thumb

  • Stay positive, and reward the right behavior, as opposed to being negative and punishing for thumb-sucking.
  • You can put a bandage over his thumb at night, or a sock over his entire hand.
  • Create a progress chart and award him a prize for a successful week, and then for a successful month.
  • If thumb-sucking is associated with anxiousness, work on eliminating the anxiety, which is the cause of the problem, first.
  • Create diversions for your child during typical thumb-sucking occasions for your child.
  • Explain the potential dangers of thumb-sucking for his teeth.

As mentioned at the top, most of the time, thumb-sucking isn't anything to worry about in terms of your child's dental hygiene and health. If he or she hasn't grown out of it, or you need an assessment, schedule an appointment and we'll take a look.

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