Is Thumb and Finger Sucking Normal?

Sucking is a healthy, normal, and natural habit for infants. Most babies find comfort from sucking a thumb, finger, or a pacifier.

Thumb and finger sucking is not usually a concern until permanent teeth appear unless some or all of the following factors are present:

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  • Forceful sucking.
  • Sucking often during the day.
  • Sucking throughout the night rather than just at bedtime.
  • Sucking that has caused changes to the position of teeth, mouth or lips.
  • Sucking along with tongue thrusting and speech difficulties.

What are the dental effects of thumb and finger sucking?

The strong muscle action used for thumb or finger sucking can change the shape of the mouth and the position of the teeth and lips. This can lead to abnormal swallowing patterns, even when thumb or fingers are not present in the mouth.

Repeated sucking after the four front permanent teeth grow in, makes these conditions worse and may require treatment and, in extreme cases, surgery.

If, after the age of four, a child is unable to give up the habit, it is advisable to consult a dental professional.

Tips for parents

  • Instead of scolding children for sucking, praise them when they are not.
  • Spend lots of time with your child encouraging other uses of the hands such as puzzles, coloring, anything that will keep their hands busy.
  • For habit-free days, offer a reward such as a special time, a favorite video or activity.
  • At naptime or bedtime, offer a child a small toy to hold and cuddle to replace the habit.