Sucking is a natural reflex for children. Sucking on different objects such as the thumb, fingers, or pacifier helps babies to feel secure and happy. Children may also do this to soothe anxiety or help themselves fall asleep. Depending on the intensity of the sucking, problems may arise with the primary teeth as well as the permanent teeth. If the sucking habit continues even after the permanent teeth have come in, the growth of the mouth and the alignment of the child’s teeth may be seriously affected.

Different sucking habits can be easier or harder to break. For example, sucking on a pacifier is often an easier habit to break—by simply getting rid of the pacifier. A thumb habit can be more difficult since we won’t be getting rid of any of our fingers! Most children will break their habit before age four. If a child still has difficulty breaking the habit after age 4, a plan can be implemented between the parents and the dentist to help break the habit.


  • Praise your child when he or she is not sucking their thumb/finger. Don’t draw attention to the habit when he or she is sucking their thumb/finger.
  • Children often suck their thumbs when they need comfort or feel nervous. Try to eliminate whatever causes the child to be anxious or nervous. Giving extra comfort in these moments may encourage the child to stop sucking.
  • For older children, you can have them choose a special reward once the habit is broken.
  • To avoid the temptation to suck at night, you can bandage the thumb/finger or put a sock on the hand.
  • If none of the above tips work for your child, you may want to discuss the option of a habit reminder appliance. This is basically a wire that sits on the roof of the mouth that functions as a physical reminder not to suck. This appliance would be removed once the habit is broken.

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