Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Thumb Sucking

Category: Child Care


Thumb, finger, and pacifier sucking is a common and normal finding in most infants. In fact, now in the age of ultrasound, most parents can see their infant sucking a finger or thumb as young as a few months of age in the womb. It appears that sucking of the finger or thumb provides security and satisfaction to infants and is a common phenomena probably occurring in close to 50% of all infants.

Infants who suck their fingers, thumbs or pacifiers are in no danger of hurting themselves or damaging their teeth unless it persists beyond the age of seven. In most cases, thumb or finger sucking will stop at about age 4 or 5 because of peer pressure.

When the child goes to pre-school or kindergarten and begins to suck their finger or thumb, they will frequently get teased by their peers. This will usually motivate them to end their habit. A small percentage of kids will continue to suck their finger or thumb but this need not be a cause of alarm to their parents.

If it appears that the child is pushing their front teeth forward because of aggressive thumb sucking, a dentist can be consulted and a device can be placed in the mouth to stop the finger sucking. Other options include cayenne pepper and dozens of other age old remedies which may work. The important thing to remember is that most babies suck their fingers and are not at any risk or danger from doing so. Personally, I prefer to see babies who suck their fingers or thumbs because it is easier to keep their hands washed than it is to constantly pick up the pacifier and wash it. If you have any concerns about an older child who is still sucking their fingers, consult your pediatrician or family doctor or dentist for advice.