It is completely normal for an infant to like sucking on their thumbs, fingers or a pacifier.

As the child ages, they usually lose interest but some children hold onto that habit well beyond the toddler stage.  Long term thumb/finger/pacifier sucking can affect the growth and development of the jaw, which may require extensive orthodontics (braces) to correct.  It is not uncommon for children who continue non-nutritive sucking habits to develop an “open bite” or “cross bite”.  Positive reinforcement, distraction and redirection are the most helpful parenting tools to help your child grow beyond this habit.  Please speak to your pediatric dentist at The Kids Dentist to help you figure out what tool will be best for your child.  Our dentist will be able to help you navigate what may work best for your child’s particular circumstance.

Hints On Stopping Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Use

Most children develop a comforting oral habit of some type as infants, whether finger or thumb sucking or using a pacifier. After age 3, these habits can have a harmful effect on teeth, especially if they’re done very often or with high intensity. Kids with oral habits like these may eventually develop bite issues where teeth and jaws are displaced into unhealthy positions in response to the pressure from the oral habit.

A pediatric dentist can assess whether your child’s habit has begun to negatively affect teeth and/or jaws. If there are early signs of trouble with your child’s bite as a result of these habits, it’s very important to work on stopping them as soon as possible. Not only will teeth look better if they can settle back to normal positions, but important activities like speaking and eating will be more successful if teeth and jaws are in the right places. Preventing issues like open bites and cross bites early on will save a great deal of time, effort and money later on by possibly avoiding orthodontics or oral surgery.

Thumb Sucking and Pacifiers “Non-nutritive Sucking Habits”Pacifier Habits in Children

Pacifier habits are easier to help your child stop than thumb or finger habits. Simply put, you can decide to throw away a pacifier but you can’t take that approach with natural limbs! By age 2, you may decide to wean your child off of a pacifier. One gradual approach is to cut the tip off in small slices over a period of time until it’s a small nub that cannot be chewed on easily. Then discard and don’t look back. Caution should be taken that your child does not bite off any of the rubber as this could cause a risk of aspiration.  If your child is chewing on the rubber, this technique should be avoided.  Consult with The Kids Dentist or your pediatric dentist on other suggested techniques to discontinuing pacifier use.

Finger Sucking Habits in Children

As for finger habits, some kids will naturally grow out of it on their own. Others are much more dependent on the comforting effects, especially around the time of falling asleep. If possible, it’s a good idea to gently remove the hand from the face of a sleeping child so that the pressure from sucking isn’t affecting the mouth all night. The goal is to avoid a frequent or intense habit that could distort growing mouths and cause major bite issues.

Once children are in school, there will be social pressures that prevent them from sucking their thumb or finger during the day. If they reach a point where they express wanting to quit entirely but struggling to do so, a pediatric dentist can fit your child with a special appliance designed to remind kids not to suck their fingers or thumbs. It can be very effective for the families who have tried everything but just can’t quite kick the habit. Contact Dr Shane Fisher for more information about whether this could be a good option for your child.

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The Kids Dentist - Mequon, WI

Our board-certified pediatric dentists provide dental care for infants, children and teenagers. We have consistently received 5 star ratings throughout social media. We have patients that travel from all over the metropolitan area including Mequon, Whitefish Bay, Thiensville, River Hills, Fox Point, Glendale and other northern Milwaukee suburbs.

If you would like for your child to have a great experience at a pediatric dentist, please call The Kids Dentist 262-241-0400 or complete an online appointment request.


We will do our best to get back to you in a timely manner! You can always call the office for more immediate attention or for emergencies. 262-241-0400