The Effects of Thumb Sucking in Toddlers | Is it Harmful?

Thumb Sucking in Toddlers | Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

As parents, we're all naturally fretful when it comes to the health of our children.
That's just what comes along with the job - you worry about most everything that your children say and do.
When you're the parent of an infant or a young toddler, it's nearly impossible not to constantly be concerned about something.
How to Prevent Thumb Sucking

In that vein, there is one action that seems natural (and often, cute) in younger children: the sucking of thumbs.

Parents are naturally concerned that this type of behavior may lead to oral health problems down the line.

Here's the bottom line on this issue: Sucking thumbs is normal behavior in toddlers, but if it continues on into to adolescence, there can be negative effects that may have to be dealt with medically.

So, if you're concerned about the issue in regards to your son or daughter, don't bog yourself down with worry.

This guide will tell you just about everything you need to know about thumb sucking and what might result from it.

Article Table of Contents:

Why Do Children Suck Their Thumbs?

Thumb Sucking | Toddler Dental Health

Thumb sucking is a ubiquitous - and completely natural - action for plenty of children (not every child will do it, though).
It's an act of great psychological comfort. A "sucking" motion is something natural and inherent for infants. That's what they're used to when they feed. In the absence of feeding, sucking on thumbs is a natural instinct.
It's also a "security blanket" for infants; thumb-sucking is a source of natural calmness for babies and often occurs as they go to sleep at night.
So, thumb sucking, again, is an entirely normal and natural action for toddlers.

When Should Children Stop Sucking Their Thumbs?

For most kids, thumb sucking stops as they progress from infant to the toddler stage - anywhere from 2 to 4 years old.

If children keep sucking their thumb beyond the age of 4, that's when the problems may start.

Permanent teeth start to develop as the child reaches the toddler stage, and constant thumb sucking can begin to have a negative impact.

The finger in the mouth can disrupt the palate of the mouth or the alignment of the teeth, which can cause serious problems down the line.

The problem is even worse for children who are "vigorous" thumb suckers.

For these children, the sucking action is more harmful to the teeth and the mouth than it is for children who "passively" just rest the thumb in there (you can determine the level of severity by listening for a distinct sucking noise that accompanies the removal of the thumb from the mouth).

Excessive or violent thumb sucking can lead to a number of serious problems.

The problems include:

  1. Teeth Misalignment (known as malocclusion): This can lead to an overbite or open bite, which will need to be corrected in the future through dental work.
  2. Skin/Fingernail Damage
  3. Speech Development: For more information on thumb sucking and speech development, click here

How Can I Stop My Child From Sucking Their Thumb?

Before you take any drastic action, it's a good idea to check in with your dentist.

They will be able to discern if there is a problem with thumb sucking, and if so, how to correct it. Seeking out the opinion of a healthcare professional is absolutely vital if you're at all concerned.

Effects of Thumb Sucking on Toddlers

If it's determined that it is time to start weaning your child off of sucking their thumb, there are some methods you can use.

Try talking to your child about the problem, but don't ever be accusatory about it.

Talk to your child with care and tact; thumb sucking is oftentimes exacerbated by stress, and angry or pressured confrontations probably won't help matters.

Instead, use gentle encouragement to help stop thumb sucking.

Additionally, if you believe that your child is sucking their thumb for attention, intentional ignorance may be the best way to deal with the problem.

In some cases, not paying attention to the thumb sucking is the best way to get rid of it.

How Can Hylan Dental Care Help?

Hylan Dental Care can help with the problems that may be associated with thumb sucking.

We can also assist with all manner of oral health issues in children and adults.

If you live in the greater Cleveland area, visit Hylan Dental, and our experts will help determine the level of concern regarding your child's thumb sucking today.

Schedule an Appointment