What to Do if Your Child Sucks His Thumb
Thumbsucking is a normal, soothing reflex for babies and young children. However, as permanent teeth come in, continued thumbsucking may cause improper tooth alignment.
Different factors determine if dental problems will occur resulting from thumbsucking, including how often your child sucks his or her thumb, how long they've been sucking their thumb, and how much force the child uses.
Children should stop sucking their thumb by the time their permanent teeth come in—usually around six or seven years of age. The Massachusetts Dental Society recommends positive measures, such as praise and rewards, be given to encourage children to stop sucking their thumb. Negative reinforcement or constant nagging can actually have the opposite effect, making children more self-conscious and may push them to suck their thumb more. As a last resort, a dentist may recommend an appliance be placed in the child's mouth, which serves as a reminder and a deterrent against thumbsucking.
Parents should keep in mind that thumbsucking during childhood is normal and children will likely give up the habit when they are ready.