Thumb-sucking is normal in babies and young children. A natural sucking instinct leads some babies to suck their thumbs during their first few months of life or even before birth. Babies may also suck on their fingers, hands, or items such as pacifiers. Most babies who suck their thumbs stop on their own between ages 3 and 6 years old.
Long-term thumb-sucking may cause dental problems. It can make a child's teeth uneven or push the teeth outward and can affect the roof of the mouth. Thumb-sucking also may cause speech problems, including lisping and thrusting out the tongue when talking. Children who suck their thumbs often after the age of 4 or 5 are at risk for these problems.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
Home treatment to help a child stop sucking his or her thumb usually is not tried until age 4. Even then, most doctors recommend treatment only if the thumb-sucking is frequent or intense. Below are some steps you can take when your child is around age 4, and some stronger measures for when your child can take a more active role in quitting.
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:
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Current as of: May 12, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
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