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Thumb Sucking: When Do Cute Habits Harm Your Child’s Teeth?

What’s cuter than a photograph of a sweet baby nestling into their crib with their favourite blanket sucking on their thumb as they sleep? Parents can all agree that tooth decay is anything but cute. Every parent knows that their infant will suck on their thumb at one point or another, but the question they may not know the answer to is: when should you stop them?

Thumb sucking (or sucking on any object such as a pacifier) is actually a natural reflex for most infants and can act as a soothing agent to induce sleep or relaxation. However, thumb sucking should discontinue when your child’s permanent teeth appear. This usually coincides with your child being between two and four years old. If your child sucks on their permanent teeth, this can cause problems with the alignment of their teeth, can inhibit proper growth of the mouth and cause changes in the roof of their mouth. Infants tend to suck their thumbs to sooth themselves when they are anxious about something. To reduce your child’s thumb sucking, find out what they are anxious about and help sooth them yourself. Also, make sure to reward your child when they are not sucking on their for the best outcome.

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