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Thumb Sucking: Should I be Concerned?

Thumb sucking is a normal and acceptable behavior in babies and toddlers. In fact, about 75 percent of babies under a year old suck their fingers or thumb. Sucking a thumb helps them feel secure and happy and helps soothe a child who is separated from their parents or is otherwise under stress.

Thumb sucking becomes a problem if the child continues to do it past the age of five. Prolonged sucking of the thumb can affect the growth and development of the mouth, particularly the palate. To get rid of this habit, you can take help from pediatric dentists for thumb sucking prevention.

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A small child’s bones are extremely soft and pliable, and the palate can become abnormally narrow as it shapes itself around the thumb. An abnormally narrow palate can lead to problems with the developing teeth like crowding or malocclusion (“bad bites”) as there is too little room in the child’s jaws to properly accommodate them.

Prolonged suctioning can also affect the alignment of the teeth. As a first step, parents can ask the child's dentist to talk to the child, who can take the health care professional's advice seriously. Other possible ways to stop thumb sucking are as follows:

  • Wrap your thumbs in gloves or a soft towel before going to bed
  • Set up a reward system where children earn points or tokens for rewards if they don't suck their thumbs
  • Obtain a special ADA recommended device to make thumb sucking more difficult or less comfortable
  • Draw a miniature liquid with a bitter taste but harmless liquid