Dr. Jim Ellis, DDSThe Trouble with Thumb Sucking

Is allowing your child to suck their thumb a bad thing?

Yesterday, I talked about letting your child suck on a pacifier and basically said that I had no problem with that. I feel, that letting your child suck on their thumb is something completely different.

The biggest reason for this is the pressure that can be applied by the child’s finger to the teeth and roof of the mouth.

Child thumb sucking

A pacifier is passive. No force is applied by it. On the other hand, a child can use their thumb to apply a tremendous amount of force. This force can have multiple side effects.

One of those side effects is that the upper front teeth are actually forced upward and outward. With the teeth in this position it would become impossible for those teeth to function as they were designed to. The front teeth are meant to cut pieces of food into smaller pieces before they are moved to the back teeth for grinding it down before swallowing. If the upper front teeth do not touch the lower front teeth then it would be very difficult to cut through anything.

The next problem with teeth that do not touch would be that a child’s speech patterns would be changed. During the formation of certain sounds the tongue needs to rest against the upper front teeth. If the upper front teeth are not in the proper position then the sounds made by the child will not come out as they should.

Alveolar prognathism

So, what can be done to stop a child from thumb sucking?

There are lots and lots of ideas out there. Some people choose the simple idea of painting hot sauce on their child’s finger. Hopefully they still love you after that.

The next idea is to place an appliance in the child’s mouth like the one below. The balls the sit on the wire prevent the child from getting any suction thus the child gets less satisfaction and gives up.

Pobanz Stop Thumb Sucking

You can also go the route of putting something on your child’s hand. The device below also prevents the child from completely sucking on their thumb.

Kid Giddy Thumb Cover

Point is that you need to get your child to stop sucking on their thumb. Any of these ideas would work. The only thing I do not recommend is yelling at your kids. That never really helps anything.