It is generally normal and healthy for a child to suck their thumbs, fingers and/or pacifiers, however if it  continues beyond the age of 5 when the permanent teeth begin to erupt and develope , serious problems can occur.

Depending on the frequency, intensity and duration of the sucking, the upper ,front, permanent teeth can be pushed outwardly out of allignment. This causes the teeth to protrude, spread apart and create an open , overbite.

 The problem does not end here. Subsequently, the open bite creates an additional habit of tongue thrusting when the child swallows. The tongue is a very strong muscle which pushes forward against the teeth and causes them to move forward as well.

Consequently, you have one habit(thumb sucking ) causing another ( tongue thrusting), both severe enough to cause  the teeth to move and remain in a very undesireable relationship with the opposing lower teeth.

In addition, such a result from these two habits can affect the child’s pronunciation of words and may even cause a misalignment of the upper and lower jaws as well as the malformation of the roof or palate of the mouth.

Another habit which can occur as a result of the other two already discussed is the Lip sucking habit. Although a lip sucking habit can occur on its own , it occurs more often as a result of the thumb sucking and tongue thrusting habits.

Its a vicious cycle. All three of these three undesireable habits will result in a Domino affect if you will, causing  a  permanent and unsightly overbite  if untreated.

Here are some helpful tips to stop your child from thumb sucking;
* Remember that thumb sucking is normal until it exist beyond the age of  5.

* The child must want to stop the habit before it will happen.

* Parents and family members can offer positive encouragment.

* Do not make  bid deal out of it ! Scolding and nagging is a No! No!

* Uttering threats  or some form of punishment is not recommended !

* Give the child praise and reward for their efforts to stop.

* Peer pressure at kindergarten or first grade usually results in habit loss.

* Placing a bitter substance like alum on the thumb ban be a deterent.

*Placing a band-aid on the thumb or offending fingers might act as a deterent.

* In younger children, its adviseable to take their thumb out of their mouth after the they falls asleep

* To help older children,try to determine why they insist on continuing the habit* Find out what stresses or problems they are dealing with.

* Show them pictures of children who have continued the habit beyond the age of 5.

* If all esle fails, there are different types of appliances than can be made to help stop the habit

* These appilances are cemented to the upper teeth and sit on the roof of the mouth.

 * With such appliances, thumb sucking becomes more difficult and less pleasureable.

* If the appliances do not work, Your child may need a Psychiatric evaluation or some counselling or some similar intervention.

I had one such patient who was still sucking his thumb at age nine. The appliances were designed to prick and cut the thumb, thus causing pain . This troubled boy persevered to the point that he had developed  a callus groove in his thumb over an extended period of time.

At this point, it was determined that this boy obviously  had some serious emotional issues he was dealing with. I believe he was sent to a psychiatrist for an evaluation and help.

I never saw this patient again, but I was told that there was some serious family issues that he was exposed to as a young child.

If you can prevent the thumb sucking habit, the other subsequent habits , like tongue thrusting and lip sucking usually will also disappear .

I firmly believe that you can avoid this entire issue , if you give your child at birth, a soother or pacifier to use . Eventually, you will at least have the opportunity to wein them off of such devices.

If the child begins using the thumb or fingers as a pacifiers, you obviously will not be able to remove them quite as readily.

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