Losing the Fight Against Baby Thumb Sucking


Aggressive baby thumb sucking can alter the shape of your baby’s mouth and effect the eruption of permanent teeth. It can also effect the eruption of the primary teeth and cause an open bite which can cause a lisp when the child is first learning to speak. This is all aside from the fact that it just does not look good!

As a dentist, I know all of these side effects. It haunts me as I watch my beautiful one year old daughter ‘aggressively’ sucks her thumb. All I can think about is how it has already started to flare her teeth. Next, her palate is going to be narrow. Then finally, a lisp. How long is this going to last? What can I do stop it? I am a dentist, I should know better and be able to stop this. It was so much easier just advising parents of the potential outcomes of prolonged thumb sucking. Now, I am a mother. And my baby sucks her thumb… A lot! I have tried many methods to get her to stop but apparently its just too early. I must be patient.

Most Pediatricians agree that many babies are born as ‘thumb suckers’ and they actually begin while in the womb. It is a coping device used to soothe themselves. It is not recommended to actively begin discouraging the thumb sucking until the ages of 2-4 yrs old. Even then, it is recommended to use positive reinforcement to encourage the child while not sucking the thumb. Professionals disagree on how effective placing a sock or bitter substance on the babies thumb. At a later age, the dentist can place a thumb sucking device in the mouth which does not allow for the finger to be placed on the roof of the mouth for that tight seal needed for thumb sucking. This device should be placed after the 6 year molars have erupted. It is a device that should only be placed and removed by the dentist. I would recommend this to be used only after all other methods have been attempted and failed.


The debate over pacifier vs thumb sucking is a common one. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry votes for the pacifier over the thumb due to the simple fact that the pacifier habit is a bit easier to break. The earlier the habit is broken, the less likely it will cause long term orthodontic issues. Yet again, this all depends on the baby and whether they will take the pacifier or whether they prefer their own thumb.

As a mother, I am struggling with this habit … watching patiently as my baby actively alters her beautiful smile. As of now all I do is sit there and pray that it ends sooner rather than later. I don’t want to be that crazy obsessive ‘Dentist Mom’ who is too focused on my baby’s smile to realize that she needs reassurance and security. So I will wait, and pray and eventually, when the time is right, I will encourage her to stop. Until then, I will line up a great orthodontist that can make any alignment issues a thing of the past 😉