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Many children give up the habit before they start preschool, but for persistent thumb suckers, intervention might be necessary.

Thumb sucking is a natural reflex that calms, soothes, and lulls a baby or child to sleep. Most children drop the habit on their own as they get a little older and are more capable of processing their emotions. But for some children, the need to soothe isn’t satisfied, and they continue to suck their thumb or pacifier.

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Most pediatricians and dentists recommend that your child stop sucking their thumb or using a pacifier by the time they are between two and four years old. In most cases, thumb sucking is not usually a concern, but if the habit persists or becomes a constant or vigorous habit, professional intervention may be recommended.

Can Thumb Sucking Cause Damage?

With a healthy bite, there is a small overlap between the front top and bottom teeth. Thumb sucking or continued pacifier use might prevent these teeth from fully erupting or cause them to protrude, creating an open bite, which is a gap between the top and bottom teeth even when the mouth is closed. An open bite can cause speech problems, language delays, and chewing difficulties.

If the habit isn’t corrected early enough, orthodontics or other dental treatment may be needed to fix any issues that may arise.

When Does Thumb Sucking Become a Problem?