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      Wednesday, April 01, 2015
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Is thumb and finger sucking normal?

Sucking is a healthy, normal and natural habit for infants. Most babies find comfort from sucking a thumb, finger or a pacifier.

When should I be concerned?

Thumb and finger sucking is not usually a concern until permanent teeth appear, unless some or all of the following factors are present:

  • Forceful sucking.
  • Sucking often during the day.
  • Sucking throughout the night rather than just at bedtime.
  • Sucking that has caused changes to the position of teeth, mouth or lips.
  • Sucking along with tongue thrusting and speech difficulties.

What are the dental effects of thumb and finger sucking?

  • The strong muscle action used for thumb or finger sucking can change the shape of the mouth and the position of the teeth and lips. This can lead to abnormal swallowing patterns, even when thumb or fingers are not present in the mouth.
  • Repeated sucking after the four front permanent teeth grow in, makes these conditions worse and may require treatment and, in extreme cases, surgery.
  • If, after the age of four, a child is unable to give up the habit, it is advisable to consult a dental professional.

Tips for parents

  • Instead of scolding children for sucking, praise them when they are not.
  • Spend lots of time with your child encouraging other uses of the hands such as puzzles, colouring, anything that will keep their hands busy.
  • For habit-free days, offer a reward such as special time, a favourite video or activity.
  • At naptime or bedtime, offer a child a small toy to hold and cuddle to replace the habit.


  • Sucking is a normal, natural habit for infants. A pacifier can satisfy this need and help to comfort and relax a baby. However, not all babies require a pacifier. It is better for a baby to suck on a pacifier than on a finger, toy or blanket.
  • If you are breast-feeding, avoid using a pacifier until breast-feeding is going well, usually after eight weeks. This will help avoid nipple confusion as the sucking action required for breast-feeding and pacifiers is different.
  • To prevent changes to the shape of a baby's mouth, it is important to give a baby a pacifier that is soft enough to flatten out against the roof of the baby's mouth during sucking. Continual use should be discouraged.
  • When choosing a pacifier, look for one that is orthodontically approved. For safety reasons, one piece designs are recommended. Avoid attaching a string to the pacifier to prevent possible strangulation. Check the pacifier regularly to ensure it is in good condition. Tears, cracks or other signs of wear may make it unsafe for your baby to use.
  • Avoid coating pacifiers with sugar, honey or any sweet substance as this can cause baby's teeth to decay. Honey and corn syrup may also contain spores that can cause food poisoning in infants under one year of age.

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