Thumb Sucking Basics

The forces placed on the soft growing bones of the palate (roof of mouth) by the thumb or other digits causes the palate to develop high and narrow in shape. Are thumb and digits are not designed to sit against our palate. That role actually belongs to the tongue, which is meant to rest in the roof of the mouth and resist the forces of the muscles of the cheek shaping the palate into a nice horseshoe shape as the child grows.

Thumb sucking children generally have a habit of keeping their tongue in a low resting position, underneath a digit or thumb.

Infants have strong, pre-determined sucking reflexes. Finding an object to suck on is an extension of this normal behavior and infants associate it with warmth and safety. Endorphins and dopamine produced in the brain during sucking give babies pleasure and comfort.

About 90 percent of infants in Western cultures engage in what’s termed “non-nutritive sucking” (or sucking for purposes other than feeding), on thumbs, fingers, dummies, blankets, or other objects. About half of these children will stop on their own by six or seven months of age but as many as one-third will continue beyond the preschool years. If your child stops thumb sucking by five years of age, there will most likely be no problems.

However, for the remaining children, it is important to kick the habit early to avoid further problems, such as a crowded mouth, crooked teeth, an overjet (gap between the top and bottom teeth) and receded lower jaw.

Breaking the Thumb-Sucking Habit

It is important to discourage any non-nutritive sucking beyond the age of 2 years however we do not start therapy until the age of 5. If your child is over the age of 5 and has expressed a desire to quit, it is definitely a good time to act. This is an active period of growth for children as the baby teeth are beginning to fall out and the face is starting to grow. Cranial growth is considered complete around the age of 12 years old.

Orofacial Myology Health provides fun and friendly programs to help your child kick the habit. Our programs allow children to take an active role in their own treatment. We empower them to decide to stop sucking their thumb,

Contact us to schedule a no-obligation appointment to set up a treatment plan for your child.