Thumb and Finger Sucking

Parents often feel concerned when they observe their child habitually sucking their finger or thumb. Here are some facts to help you understand this habit better:

  • Thumb sucking during infancy is considered a normal behavior.
  • Thumb or finger sucking before the age of five does not result in permanent damage to the teeth or jaws.
  • Most children naturally want to give up the habit between the ages of 2 and 4.
  • The ideal time to address the habit is when permanent upper and lower teeth are erupting, typically around 6-7 years old.
  • Some children develop a prolonged habit of sucking on their thumb, finger, pacifier, or other objects. This can lead to misalignment of the permanent teeth, causing issues such as crowding, spacing, protruding front teeth, and other bite problems.

For finger-sucking, Dr. Newhart prefers a gentle approach to correction. He uses a small “Habit Corrector” behind the teeth, covering the area where the child typically places their finger. This disrupts the sucking action that occurs when the finger or thumb touches the soft tissue of the palate. Most habits can be corrected using this comfortable treatment within a few weeks to a few months, and children adapt well to it.

Dr. Newhart’s philosophy is to assist the child in solving the problem without punishment. This conservative approach helps promote normal growth patterns in the dental arches, ensures the success of future orthodontic treatment, and addresses any social concerns for both the child and the parent.