Thumb sucking is a behavior common to human beings, chimpanzees and other primates. It involves putting the thumb in the mouth and rhythmically sucking for a long period of time. This habit is very common in children and it is estimated to occur in close to 80% of normal children and newborns. It is very difficult to break this habit that most parents struggle to device ways of bribing their children to stop the habit.

Ultrasound scans have shown that thumb sucking can start as early as 15 weeks from conception. Generally, it stops t the age of 5 years however; some children retain the habit for a longer period and in return suffer severe dental problems such as affecting the shape of the oral cavity or dentition. Also, this habit causes major concerns in parents to the many myths surrounding it. The myths are that it has an effect on the facial bone; it affects the teeth and that there is close connection between sexual indulgences such as masturbation.

When child thumb sucks for a prolonged period of time, the teeth can be grossly affected. If the thumb is placed in the mouth for a long time, it acts s a brace as it pushes the upper front teeth forwards and the lower front teeth back.  As the thumb is resting between the upper and lower teeth, it can prevent the normal eruption of the anterior teeth, causing an open bite and the front teeth refuse to meet. If it is stopped early the child can retain the normal position of the tooth as they develop. It can also result in introduction of toxic organisms the intestinal. Apart from worm infections many other diarrheal diseases are transferred from the finger tips to the child’s intestines.

Experts have indicated that there is a great possibility in developing bite and chewing problems, swallowing difficulties, speech problems, crowding of the teeth and over biting. Prolonged finger sucking should always be discouraged by parents as they make the teeth become misaligned by tilting them forward resulting in a bad relation created between the upper and lower jaws. It also causes bad protrusions and displacement of the front teeth and this affects the child’s appearance and results in further emotional problems as their social interactions and peer relationships are impaired.


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