Why Do Children Suck Their Thumbs?

Thumb sucking is a natural reflex for children and toddlers, many even starting in their mother’s womb. Sucking on thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects may make babies and toddlers feel secure and happy and help them learn about their world. Young children may also suck to soothe themselves and help them fall asleep. Many children stop thumb sucking on their own, often by the age of 3 or 4, however some find it difficult and the habit can even continue into to adulthood.

However prolonged digit sucking can create long-term problems with the development of children’s teeth and mouth. Something that parents and dentist have many concerns about. Three dentists told us their views on the effects of thumb sucking on teeth and what they recommended to parents who were struggling to get their children to stop. 

Does Thumb Sucking Affect Children’s Teeth?

Lina Kotecha from Glen Dental, Leicester explained: “Once permanent teeth come in, sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth. It can also cause changes in the roof of the mouth, which in turn affect speech and the bite of the teeth.”

Donna, Practice Manager of iQ orthodontics agreed adding: “Prolonged digit sucking changes the growth of the face, it can cause the collapse of the upper jaw and prevent the teeth from biting together at the front, this can then lead to bite problems and most commonly the upper front teeth being prominent.”

Andrew MacGregor from Park Orthodontics in Glasgow said: “The longer the thumb sucking continues, the more difficult these features are to correct and often teeth remain poorly aligned for the rest of their lives.”

Pacifiers can affect the teeth essentially the same ways as sucking fingers and thumbs, but it is often an easier habit to break. It is more difficult to correct malocclusion caused by thumb sucking.

According to Dr. Kotecha, the intensity of the sucking is a factor that determines whether or not dental problems may result. If children rest their thumbs passively in their mouths, they are likely to cause fewer problems than those who vigorously suck their thumbs. Some aggressive thumb suckers may develop problems with their baby (primary) teeth as well as their permanent teeth.

Andrew MacGregor explains: “As the adult teeth come through in a thumb sucker they become more prominent or ‘goofy’ and the bite becomes misaligned and this can lead to so-called cross bites and open bites.” 

Why Dentists Recommend Thumbsie® and How It Helps?

Lina of Glen Dental says: “I recommend the Thumbsie® because stopping thumb sucking is a difficult task for all kids.  It works every time I recommend it!  The Thumbsie® provides a fun way for a dentist or parent to help the child stop sucking.

I love all the different design, there is one for everyone. Kids get so excited to choose one and when they get it, they can’t wait to get started. Thank you Thumbsie®!

Donna at iQ Orthodontics confirms: “Thumb and digit sucking has a huge emotional attachment in young children and so it can be a very difficult habit to break, ‘Thumbsie’ is a great way to help with habit cessation; its funky fun designs allow children to choose and have ownership of it. We at iQ orthodontics have had a lot of success with patients using the ‘Thumbsie’, we recommend it routinely and it often prevents the need for using orthodontic appliances to stop a thumb or finger sucking habit.”

Andrew Macgregor loves Thumbsie® because: “Getting a child to stop thumb sucking can be very difficult, therefore anything that makes the process fun can be a massive help.  Several of my patients have used a Thumbsie® and successfully kicked the habit. I now recommend it to every frustrated parent!

Thumbsie® is available in thumb and finger guards and in 5 different sizes. The Thumbsie® should be worn day and night until the habit is broken. Children really enjoy choosing the fabric and making the fabric guards their own, this makes the process much more fun. There have been lots of happy parents and you can hear what they have said about their experience and success. Thumbsie® offer a reward chart to help parents encourage their child and make the whole experience a fun and positive one, as giving up any habit is hard let alone one that most have had since they were born. Once they do give up then Thumbsie® even offer a personalised certificate for a job well done!

Thumbsie® is recommended by dentists around the world and we would like to thank the dentists that helped with this article.

Dr. Lina Kotecha of Glen Dental, Leicester, Donna at iQ Orthodontics, West Byfleet,  Andrew MacGregor of Park Orthodontics, Glasgow

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