Thumb Sucking

Nothing is quite as cute as a baby that is thumb sucking but if this habit persists into childhood, it can become a serious problem.  Thumb sucking is a natural instinct that some children rely on to feel secure or to help them fall asleep. Children normally stop the sucking habit by age four, but some children do not.

If a child continues the sucking habit into the years when permanent teeth are in, there is a high likelihood of having problems with jaw growth and the way the teeth ultimately come together. The roof of the mouth can be affected as well. Most often in thumb suckers, there will be a gap between the upper and lower front teeth when the back teeth are closed. This is called an open bite. This problem is a difficult case to treat with braces and often times can involve jaw surgery. The severity of the thumbsucking habit determines the effect on the jaws and teeth.

Here are some tips from the American Dental Association on how to stop thumbsucking.

  • Praise your child for not sucking.
  • Children often suck their thumbs when feeling insecure or needing comfort. Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety and provide comfort to your child.
  • For an older child, involve him or her in choosing the method of stopping.
  • Bandage the thumb or put a sock on the hand at night
  • Use a bitter medication to coat the thumb
  • Have a mouth appliance made to prevent room for the thumb in the mouth

Dr. Julie Pruneski is the dentist and owner of Whispering Pines Dental located at 690 Cooper Foster Park Road in Lorain Ohio.  Dr. Pruneski is a current member of the American Dental Association, Ohio Dental Association, Lorain County Dental Society, Academy of General Dentistry, and American Academy of Facial Esthetics.  To reserve an appointment with Dr. Pruneski, call 440-282-2023.  Check us out online at and on Facebook at

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