It’s common for babies and children to suck on their thumbs, fingers, or a pacifier as it helps children and babies to feel comforted. This is a natural reflex for an infant that can often be seen in the womb during development. This reflex gives  baby comfort and, as the baby grows, it may help baby to feel secure and happy. It can also be soothing, and many babies and toddlers use it as a coping mechanism when anxious or separated from their parents. The habit helps to induce sleep, and children may suck their thumbs in the evening before bedtime.

 However, it can cause damage to their teeth and mouths if it is carried on for too long.The best time to discourage thumb sucking is by age four. By this time, prolonged sucking could begin to affect  child's mouth and developing jaw and teeth, possibly causing permanent teeth to be misaligned. If the child passively sucks his/her thumb, the habit may be easier to discourage, but vigorous sucking can lead to changes in the palate that affect the permanent bite and are usually more difficult to end without intervention.

The various consequences of thumb sucking are:

1. Protrusive upper front teeth-The upper incisor teeth are tipped forward. Occasionally, the formation of the jaw can be affected, which can lead to the upper jaw and teeth protruding from the face.

2. Open bite - The upper and lower front teeth do not meet when the back teeth bite together. The shape of the opening between the upper and lower front teeth may match the child’s finger or thumb exactly.

3. Tipped back lower front teeth-The pressure of the thumb forces the lower incisor teeth to tip toward the tongue.

4. Crossbite - The formation of the upper jaw is too narrow for the lower jaw, so the upper and lower teeth do not fit together properly. This can occur as a result of the flexing of the cheek muscles while the child is sucking their thumb.

5. The roof of the mouth becoming altered or more sensitive.

6. Germs from your thumb and surrounding areas can affect your body.

The habit of thumb sucking normally ceases without any concern or effort. Often, the habit can be discouraged by  simply  ignoring the behaviour. Children will figure out on their own when this behaviour is not acceptable from social situations and peer pressure. But if the habit persists beyond kindergarten or for too long then it may be the time to intervene. 

The following measures can be taken:

- Offer a pacifier to infants, pacifiers are easier to take away.

- Establish a chart and reward system to track your child's progress for quitting.

- Encourage and praise your child when they attempt to stop.

- Visit your child's dentist to learn about positive effects of stopping the habit.

Some children may experience difficulty stopping their thumb sucking. In these cases, it may be necessary to purchase products that can be placed on the thumb or fingers in order to discourage the habit. Sometimes, just placing a bandage on the finger or a sock or glove on the preferred hand is sufficient. It is always better to use positive reinforcement to encourage your child to discourage the habit. Criticism or nagging may cause more anxiety and perpetuate the problem.