Thumb Sucking


Thumb & Finger sucking habits can have a tremendous impact on how your child's teeth & face develop. The sucking habit not only affects tooth eruption but also proper tongue rest posture and lip structure.

The formation of the child's mouth is vital for proper chewing and speech function for their entire life. The earlier the sucking habit is eliminated the sooner the form is corrected and proper chewing, swallowing and speech can be achieved.  

Certified Orofacial Myologist
By Sandra R. Coulson

Some controversy has existed about the reasons for and the consequences of thumbsucking. Many young children suck thumbs or fingers, but some PERSIST, and for these children the following issues should be addressed: (1) length of time spent sucking, (2) duration per day, and (3) force with which the sucking is done

The occasional thumbsucker or one who thumb-sucks only as she drifts off to sleep is not usually a concern, I'd like to address those who suck for prolonged periods of time frequently during the day and night, and who exert forces on the teeth and the bone of the hard palate.  This pressure can distort and move the bone and teeth, producing what dentists call an "open bite."

Protracted thumbsucking also tends to "shorten" the upper lip, which does not allow "holding power" for the upper front teeth, making them more vulnerable to injury. It also creates some difficulty in producing some speech sounds which are made with the help of the lips. A child who "hides" to suck may not be able to socially interact with his peers in a normal manner. 

There have been many approaches regarding breaking these habits.  Few have been successful, and many are psychologically negative.  I prefer a positive approach, which builds self-esteem and increases maturity.

Parents are at a disadvantage trying to break these habits on their own. It can threaten the relationship between the parent and child, especially if negative reinforcement is used.

I suggest that the best means to correcting a long-term sucking habit is the involvement of a "third party" who intervenes and establishes a relationship with the child.  This produces a positive experience and has a high success rate if the parents remain supportive throughout the program!