Rochedale Dental Group

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Opening Hours

Opening Hours

Mon:8am – 5:30pm
Tue: 8am – 5:30pm
Wed: 8am – 5:30pm
Thu: 8am - 7pm
Fri: 8am – 5:30pm
Sat: 8am - 3:30pm

Thumb Sucking: For Babies Only

Did you know that your baby probably started sucking his/her thumb in the womb? You may have seen pictures on your scan. This is actually an important part of preparing for life outside the womb: the foetus ‘practises’ the movements that will be needed immediately after birth because it helps the brain and nervous system to dentist develop and also allows the joints, bones and muscles to form correctly.

A Natural Instinct

When a baby is born, the instinct to suck has already established pathways in the brain. It’s no wonder, then, that a baby automatically puts the thumb in his/her mouth when rest or comfort is required. This applies equally to fingers, as some babies naturally insert one or more fingers rather than the thumb. You’ll also find that the thumb goes to the mouth if your child is sick, bored or simply trying to adjust to new challenges in life.

Parents should relax and accept that no harm will come from thumb sucking as a baby. It’s now been well established that children can suck their thumbs up until the age of three or four without undue damage. But this statement comes with a qualifier: if your child sucks ‘aggressively’, you are more likely to see damage done to the teeth or jaw than if the thumb simply rests in an inactive mouth.

Breaking the Habit

The time comes in every child’s life when you need to encourage him or her to break this habit. After the age of three or four, a child can inflict damage that might require correction later on. The front teeth can be pushed out of alignment, which in turn can alter the shape of the face and cause problems with the child’s bite. Also, when the top teeth are pushed forward, it becomes more difficult to form certain sounds correctly, and the child can develop a lisp. While this might sound cute in a very small child, it can be a significant impediment as a child gets older.

Rochedale Dental Group encourages you to work with your child to eliminate thumb sucking before the child reaches school age. Most child psychologists agree that a ‘carrot’ approach is far better than a ‘stick’; that is, don’t punish your child, but rather offer incentives and rewards for not sucking.

Remember the reason for thumb sucking: your child needs comfort, or something to do, or might be hungry or tired. Learn to recognise the signs and do something about it. In this way, you will do much to distract your child and remove the need for thumb sucking. As the child grows older, you can also use cognitive tools. Talk about giving up thumb sucking, offer special rewards for abstinence, offer other things to do to help remove the need.

Rochedale Dental Group recommends that every child have an acquaintance with their dentist from the emergence of their first tooth. By the age of three or four, your child will be comfortable with the dentist, who will be able to help you with a strategy for eliminating thumb sucking. The Oral Health Therapists at Rochedale Dental Group will also advise on a complete home care program. The encouragement of these professionals will support your efforts to wean your child from this much-loved activity of babyhood. Read more about Rochedale Dental Group’s children’s program at