Thumb sucking in children should be stopped in order to prevent problems realted to the teeth. Kids who continue to suck their fingers or use a pacifier after the age of 2 may be more likely to end up in the orthodontist's office by the time they reach adolescence, a team of dentists reports.
Their study found that kids who used a pacifier or sucked their fingers or thumb by the age of 4 to 5 were more likely to develop protruding front teeth and an irregular bite, compared with their peers who gave up the habit at an earlier age.
While it is known that longer, "nonnutritive sucking" can affect the development of the jaw and influence the placement of developing teeth, the current report suggests that even shorter-term sucking can have a notable impact. According to researchers, some dental organizations recommend that kids stop this type of sucking by the age of 5 to 8 years.
"Previously, sucking habits were not thought to be very important until children reached the age where their permanent teeth began to come in, as it was believed that once a habit was stopped, the conditions (crossbite, protrusive upper front teeth) resolved by themselves as long as the permanent teeth weren't involved," Dr. John Warren, the study's lead author, told Reuters Health. "What our study found is that for many children, the aforementioned conditions do not resolve by themselves, even 2 to 3 years after a habit is stopped."
The study of 372 children found that nearly 6% of those who stopped sucking before they turned 1 had an irregular bite in the molar area, or in the back of the mouth. In comparison, the problem was noted among 13% of children who stopped between 2 to 3 years and in 20% of those who continued to suck fingers or a pacifier after the age of 4.
A higher percentage of children who persisted in sucking fingers or a pacifier also developed