My child has a thumb sucking habit. Start here!

So, your child has a thumb sucking habit. Welcome to the club!

Entering the world of thumb sucking can be scary and overwhelming. Here, we answer all your FAQs about sucking habits in children and what to do about them. 

Is thumb sucking normal?

The first thing I want to stress is that thumb sucking is normal (take a breath!). Infants have a strong and predetermined sucking reflux. They are programmed suck in the womb (which is why you see them doing it in ultrasounds), so don’t stress about your child’s sucking if they are under the age of two.

READ: Where does thumb sucking begin?

Why do kids suck their thumbs?

Thumb sucking gives children a HUGE fix due to the hormones (endorphins, dopamine and serotonin) that are released during thumb sucking. These hormones give babies and toddlers pleasure and comfort, enabling them to soothe themselves and keep calm (pretty clever, hey).

READ: What happens in the brains of kids who suck their thumb?

If thumb sucking is normal, why are dentists so concerned?

Whilst it is indeed normal for infants and toddlers to suck their thumbs, it can eventually develop into a habit that some kids find hard to break. This is due to the chemical fix their brains continue to receive each time their thumb enters their mouth. Therefore, thumb sucking becomes the equivalent of crack for kids and breaking up with their beloved thumb is something they don’t have any interest in. This is where oral issues can occur, depending on the duration, frequency and intensity of the sucking.

READ: How to have a conversation with your dentist about your child’s sucking habits

What are some common oral issues associated with thumb sucking?

One of the most common dental problems associated with sucking habits is an anterior open bite, where, upon closing the mouth, there is a gap between the upper and lower front teeth. This can lead to eating, breathing and facial development issues as the pressure of thumb sucking can change the shape of the roof of the mouth (known as the palate).

READ: Sucking Habits: How does it affect the teeth and jaw?

What about non-oral related issues?

Children who suck their thumbs can often experience issues of excessive tiredness, moodiness, difficulty concentrating, and at times, behavioural issues. In most children, thumb sucking is a symptom of a larger underlying issue that once addressed, enables children to stop their thumb sucking more easily.

READ: Non-oral issues sucking habits can cause

What else should I be looking out for?

Some children have a trigger associated with their thumb sucking habit. This could include physical items such as a blanket, a teddy bear and can also be specific environments, such as when they are watching TV, travelling in the car or going to sleep at night. It’s important to identify and be aware of these triggers early on.

READ: Mr Teddy isn’t as harmless as he seems

What if I am really concerned?

Some children are able to stop sucking on their own, however others may need professional help. If you’re concerned about your child’s habits, be sure to see our Thumbsucking Professionals, who can put a plan in place to help your child.

READ: How do I know if my child’s sucking habit is just a phase?


Remember, you’re not alone! Be sure to join our Facebook group to connect with other parents of thumb suckers!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on google
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest