Side Effects Of Prolonged Thumb Sucking In Children


Thumb-sucking is normal in babies and young children. According to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation for Health Care, Research and Education, thumb sucking is  soothing in babies and young children. Children suck their thumbs as result of hunger, boredom, nervousness or tiredness.

Most children stop on their own at age 3 to 6 years. In rare cases, thumb-sucking after age 5 is in response to an emotional problem or other disorder, such as anxiety.

Thumb sucking in children younger than 4 is normal and  usually not a problem but there are negative side effects when a child continues to  suck his/her thumb often or with great intensity at age 6.

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Dental Problems    

Prolonged thumb sucking  can lead to a dental problem known as malocclusion . This is a condition  where a child’s teeth may not align properly or the teeth may be pushed outward causing an overbite. The roof of the mouth may become malformed. This usually corrects itself when the child stops thumb-sucking.But the longer thumb-sucking continues, the more likely that treatment from an orthodontist may be needed.


Speech Problems                                                                                                                            

Another side effect of thumb sucking is speech difficulties, especially one continues after the permanent teeth are out. According to experts,teeth alignment problems cause certain sounds distortions. Also, long-term thumb sucking may slow the replacement of tongue thrust, a normal early childhood swallowing pattern, with the mature swallow. The sounds and letter that may be impacted include /s, z, t, d, l, n/, /S, and dz. A lisp may also be an effect of thumb sucking that extends into the school years.

Nail Problems/Exposure To Germs                                                                                                        

Children are also at risk of skin and nail problems on the thumb such as callus formation, paronychia and herpetic whitlow. They are also at risk of ingesting chemicals on the hand, and can even have orthopedic problems such as radial angular deformities from prolonged sucking.


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Experts however,recommends that  thumb-sucking in a child who is preschool age or younger be ignored but children who continue to suck a thumb often or with great intensity around age 4 or older,needs help or treatment.

To help your child stop thumb sucking,identify the reason he or she sucks. It may be due to hunger, anger, frustration and stress, then try to work on that act, as this may stop them from the act.

Setting rules and providing distractions may help to limit the times and places that your child is allowed to suck his or her thumb. Putting away blankets or other items your child associates with thumb-sucking, putting gloves on his/her hands or wrapping the thumb with an adhesive bandage or a cloth may help remind your child not to suck the thumb.

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