Children are born with a natural sucking reflex that often evolves into a comfort behavior. It is not at all unusual for an infant or child to find a thumb or finger to calm them when tired or upset as a coping mechanism. Ultrasound scans have revealed that thumb sucking can start before birth, as early as 15 weeks from conception.

Even though a sucking reflex disappears at about four months of age, some infants will continue to suck their thumb or fingers as a voluntary habit to soothe themselves. It helps provide a sense of security and relaxes children as they fall asleep. Thumb sucking prevention can be one of the most comforting aspects of childhood.

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According to the American Dental Association, most children stop sucking their thumb by the age of 2-4 with little if any damage as a result. Habit no longer serves its purpose, so they quit. However, children who vigorously suck their thumbs and continue to do so after the age of four risks of causing damage that will require orthodontic treatment to correct. Thumb or finger can exert unwanted pressure on the teeth, bones, and soft tissues in the mouth cause problems with the position of the teeth and jaw growth.

The most obvious consequence of continuous thumb or finger habits are:

Pushing on the front teeth (incisors) and lower incisors resulting in "Bucky Beaver" smile

Prevent the front teeth from erupting, all the way together cause an open bite.

Stopping the lower jaw of developing normally, resulting in a recessive or "weak" chin.

Narrowing of the soft tissues of the palate

If a child does not eventually stop sucking their thumb, a dentist can install equipment that takes children to get a pleasant sensation when sucking their thumbs. However, before I recommend the placement of an orthodontic appliance, I always encourage children to stop their own habits.