5 Common Thumb Sucking Misconceptions

Like many bad habits, thumb sucking comes with its own set of old wives tales and misconceptions. This post aims to dispel the myths that surround thumb sucking, and how you can help your child wean themselves off the habit.

Thumb Sucking Ruins Teeth

Unpleasant pictures of buck-teeth have scared many parents into believing their kids’ thumb sucking habit must be dropped ASAP, yet even dentists admit that sucking doesn’t immediately lead to deformed jaw or deteriorated teeth – not until a number of factors have kicked in.

Those ‘naughty fingers’ finding their way into the toddler’s mouth, won’t do any long-lasting damage until the adult front teeth are starting to come through – usually between the ages 6-8. By then, most kids have naturally dropped the habit, and, if not, the initial misalignment resulting from sucking can still go away, once the sucking stops. Bacteria and germs, however, are still a perfectly good reason to keep those restless thumbs out of their eager mouths.

Pacifiers Are Safer

Although softer to suck on, pacifiers are far from being the miraculous cure to your kid’s fondness of their thumbs and, in fact, might even have more downsides. Specialists claim that the effects of pacifiers on the teeth can essentially be the same as sucking on fingers and thumbs.

Studies have also shown that babies and toddlers using pacifier are more prone to acute ear infections and more likely to suffer from a recurring infection, too, as sucking on pacifiers makes it more likely for viruses and bacteria to be sucked into the middle ear.


Image by andrechinn

Thumb Sucking is Inevitable, Unless Prevented

Although around 80% of babies go on to suck their fingers or thumbs, in reality, thumb sucking is not a an inborn pattern of behaviour – only sucking itself is, to allow babies to receive nourishment through breastfeeding, which then becomes associated with a self-soothing and pleasurable oral sensation.

Thus most newborns would happily suck on any object placed in their mouths, and while fingers and toes are of the closest things, there’s still a chance they won’t fancy either of those.

Thumb Sucking Equal Immaturity

While thumb sucking is typically attributed to youngsters, older children who suck their thumbs are not necessarily underdeveloped or ‘behind’ in other areas of their lives. As concerned parents you may be tempted to play the ‘only babies suck on their thumbs’ card, but finding out why your child is sucking may be far more advantageous.

As a natural self-soothing mechanism, for older children – and even teenagers and adults – it’s just another way of dealing with stress, so eliminating the cause can prove more effective than shaming your child into abstaining from it.


Image by Carlos Martinez

If you’re determined to wean your children off this habit at any cost, consider rewarding rather than punishing them; ranging from sugarless treats to small toys or even reward certificates, as they get older. Sometimes it’s only a matter of simply reminding them, with the help of a thumb sucking guard, the next time that sneaky finger makes its move towards the mouth!

What do you find most challenging in your battle against your kids’ thumb sucking?

Louise Blake is a part-time writer and a full-time mother trying her best to find the perfect work-family life balance. She writes for SchoolStickers.