Fast Facts about Thumb Sucking

Children who suck their thumbs are able to begin at an early age to meet their own need for sucking. These children fall asleep more easily, are able to put themselves back to sleep at night more easily, and sleep through the night much earlier than infants who do not engage in thumb sucking.

A study by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton indicates that as many as 94% have finished with sucking their thumbs by their first birthdays.

According to the American Dental Association, thumb sucking does not cause permanent problems with the teeth or jaw line, unless it is continued beyond four to five years of age.

Many studies have looked at the number of children who continue to suck their thumbs at this time. As it turns out, somewhere between 85% to 99% of children have finished thumb sucking spontaneously before this period (the numbers vary depending on the study).

When investigators looked at this group of late thumb-suckers for common traits, they found that they had one thing in common that distinguished them from other children — a prolonged history of a strong battle with thumb sucking at an earlier age. It is striking that many well-meaning parents have actually encouraged this behavior by trying to forcibly take the thumb out of their children’s mouths.

Last medical review on: October 21, 2006
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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