Thumb sucking has been a childhood habit that’s been around as long as children have had thumbs to suck on. If you’re trying to break your child’s thumb sucking habit, don’t worry; it’s not something he or she will do forever, since many children stop the habit on their own by the time they reach school age. However, if you want to help your child quit thumb sucking before he or she reaches school age, here are some helpful tips you can use.

How thumb sucking can affect your teeth
Due to thumb sucking’s frequency and intensity, it can adversely affect your child’s dental health. If you have concerns that your child may be a thumb sucker, try to decrease their exposure to it.

How thumb sucking can affect your face
While thumb sucking itself is considered harmless, if you’re using your thumb to soothe a mouth sore or any other kind of oral irritation, you may be setting yourself up for dental problems down the road. Your child may have tooth decay without even realizing it, and putting too much pressure on baby teeth can lead to misalignment later in life. The best way to prevent these issues is by dealing with your child’s oral health as soon as possible.

How thumb sucking can cause an injury
The sucking motion (or other forms of oral stimulation) can lead to an injury. In many cases, thumb sucking can cause a premature eruption of teeth or damage existing permanent teeth. If you have children who suck their thumbs, it’s important to monitor their dental health regularly. This may entail professional dental hygiene visits on a regular basis to ensure their teeth remain healthy and strong.

How thumb sucking affects your growth
Thumb sucking may slow your child’s physical growth, possibly even leading to a shorter height. A small study from Iran published in 2002 in Clinical Pediatrics found that children who sucked their thumbs had an average final height that was about 2.4 centimeters (1 inch) shorter than those who didn’t suck their thumbs. But other experts warn against worrying too much about thumb sucking and not enough about making sure your child gets proper nutrition and exercise.

Long-term risks that may occur as a result of thumb sucking
Speech, dental and skeletal problems can occur from prolonged thumb sucking. These include speech problems such as a lisp, difficulty pronouncing certain sounds or mispronunciation of words, dental problems such as protruding teeth, and skeletal irregularities that affect bone growth. Although there is no set period for which sucking a thumb is believed to be dangerous, experts recommend limiting oral exploration early in life to reduce potential damage.