Happy New Year! It’s the time of year that brings resolutions to end old habits and hopefully make new, positive ones. One habit that young children often struggle with is sucking a thumb, finger or pacifier.

The Facts:

  • This type of sucking is completely normal for babies and young children.
  • Sucking provides security.
  • For young babies, sucking is a way to make contact with and learn about their world.
  • Many babies begin to suck on fingers or thumbs even before they are born!

Is it bad?

The good news is that most children stop sucking habits on their own between 2-4 years of age. However, some children continue over long periods of time. Prolonged sucking habits are the ones to watch out for.

Effects of prolonged sucking habits:

  • Upper front teeth may tip toward the lip
  • Bite may be affected
  • Growth of jaw and bones that support the teeth may be affected

Are pacifiers better than fingers/thumbs?

Thumb, finger and pacifier sucking essentially affect the teeth and jaw in the same way. However, a pacifier habit is often easier to break.

What can parents do?

When a child is old enough to understand the negative consequences of a sucking habit, enlist the help of your pediatric dentist to encourage your child to stop. The dentist will explain the negative effects to teeth and jaw. If this is not effective, your pediatric dentist may recommend ways to change the behavior, including a mouth appliance that interferes with the sucking habit.

Dr. Anas Hakimah