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A Habit from Birth
Thumb-sucking is a reflex for children. When babies suck on their thumbs, fingers, pacifiers, or other things, they feel happy and secure. This habit helps them to learn about the wide world around them. Young children often suck to soothe themselves when upset or to help them to fall asleep.

Potential Problems
Children usually stop sucking their thumb between the ages of two and four. However, if your child continues to suck his or her thumb as the permanent teeth begin to come in, problems can occur. Thumb-sucking can cause issues with the growth of your child’s mouth. This habit can also cause teeth to come in crooked. Buck teeth are a common result of prolonged thumb-sucking. If your child just rests their thumb in their mouth, they are less likely to develop dental problems than if they suck their thumb vigorously.

Tips to Break the Habit
Encourage your child and offer rewards for not thumb-sucking, rather than punishment for thumb-sucking. Rewards will help your child’s self-esteem and confidence. Children who continue to suck their thumbs often have anxiety or self-esteem problems, so punishment and criticism may cause more harm than good. Identify the cause of the anxiety and work to correct it. Focus on comforting your child and find ways to help them to comfort himself or herself without resorting to thumb-sucking. Some parents put a bitter-tasting liquid on their child’s thumbnails or put mittens on their child before bed to discourage thumb-sucking. Keep in mind that some children become frustrated by these methods and will want to suck their thumb more. If these methods do not work, ask your child’s dentist for advice.