Tooth Talk: Thumb sucking: When is it a problem?

Q: I need some help! My daughter sucks her thumbs and also three of her fingers. I’m worried that this is causing a problem with her teeth. How do I get her to stop?

A: Please rest assured that thumb sucking is a normal behavior and is cause for little concern. In, fact many babies begin sucking their thumb or fingers even before they are born.

The behavior will continue until age three or four. At that time most children will stop of their own accord. If the thumb sucking continues beyond that age and the child shows no signs of stopping then it may be time to intervene.

Intervention is important because the thumb sucking habit can affect the eruption and position of the permanent front teeth. The permanent teeth will be flared out with large spacing making orthodontics a necessity. In rare cases, it can cause the bones of the fingers to bow.

Fortunately, dental appliances can be fabricated to break the thumb sucking habit. They work so well because while the child can still get the thumb or finger in their mouth they are unable to maintain suction.

These types of appliances are generally made by either pediatric dentists or orthodontists. Your dentist or pediatrician can evaluate your child and make any appropriate referrals.

Questions can be sent to Fred Eck, D.D.S. at Marco Dental Care, 950 N. Collier Blvd., Suite 305, Marco Island; call 389-9400 or visit He received his Doctor of Dental Surgery at the University of Detroit Mercy and is licensed by the Florida State Board of Dentistry.

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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