Young children may develop oral health issues stemming from the common habit of thumb sucking. This behavior can begin in the womb and provides infants with a sense of security and relaxation. Indeed, many young children fall asleep with their thumbs still in their mouths. During the ages of 2-4, most children outgrow the thumb-sucking habit, but it can persist into elementary school.
As the permanent teeth come in, thumb sucking can affect both the mouth’s growth and teeth alignment. It can also alter the contours of the roof of the mouth. Intensity of sucking is a key factor, with aggressive thumb suckers more likely to develop baby teeth issues.
If thumb sucking persists as the primary teeth erupt, parents should try to break the habit by either praising the child when he or she stops or addressing the underlying sense of anxiety that may be causing the habit to persist. Consulting with a dentist or pediatrician is also an option, as these professionals can recommend thumb and mouth appliances, as well as bitter medicines that coat the thumb.