Thumb sucking is a natural habit that helps babies and children calm themselves and feel more secure.

How Long Does Thumb Sucking Last?

Thumb sucking usually continues until the age of 2 to 4 years. While it’s a common habit for babies and toddlers, it can cause problems if it continues for too long. Thumb sucking can affect a child’s teeth and mouth over time. For this reason, it is generally recommended that children stop sucking their thumbs when their adult teeth begin to emerge, usually around age 5 or 6.

Long Term Effects of Thumb Sucking

When a child continues thumb sucking at school age, long-term problems may occur. Thumb sucking changes the way a child’s teeth grow. The pressure exerted by the thumb pushes the teeth outward and can cause a disorder known as crossbite.

When the upper and lower teeth stick out as they grow, other problems such as broken teeth may occur. Children who suck their thumbs after toddlerhood may be more likely to need orthodontic treatments such as braces, expanders, and other devices to correct the shape of their teeth.

How to Stop the Thumb Sucking Habit

Many parents are concerned about their children’s thumb sucking habits because of possible dental problems in the future, and it may be challenging for them to break the habit. However, pushing too hard may cause the child to stick to thumb sucking even more. Children often stop thumb sucking on their own, without needing adult intervention.

Techniques you can try to encourage your child to give up the thumb sucking habit;

Offer rewards: Set goals with your child and offer rewards when they can avoid thumb sucking for a certain period of time. You can encourage the process with small treats or fun surprises.

Give reminders: Many children suck their thumbs without consciously thinking about it. When you notice your child sucking their thumb, gently redirect them. Avoid harsh words or punishments.

If your child continues to suck their thumb despite your help, talk to your pediatrician or dentist. There are dental appliances that can be placed in your child’s mouth to prevent thumb sucking.


  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Pacifiers and thumb sucking
  2. Borrie FR, Bearn DR, Innes NP, Iheozor-Ejiofor Z. Interventions for the cessation of non-nutritive sucking habits in childrenCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;2015(3):CD008694. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008694.pub2