Thumb sucking is a natural reflex and a common comfort mechanism that a child uses to soothe themselves in infancy. Although you may have images of your child sucking their them inter-uterine, there is no significant evidence linking thumb sucking in the uterus to childhood thumb sucking. As children grow, this reflex can persist and turn into a habit. Many factors contribute to thumb-sucking, such as stress, anxiety, insecurity, boredom, or simply a force of habit. However, if the habit persists beyond a certain age, it can cause issues with teeth alignment, speech, and even the shape of the jaws and face.
Orthodontists often provide counselling on the management of thumb sucking habits in children, as it can cause teeth misalignment or hinder the progress of dental treatments such as braces. Some strategies used include positive reinforcement, habit-breaking appliances, behaviour modification techniques, and in some cases, the use of a bitter-tasting nail polish. It’s worth noting that it is recommended to seek professional consultation as every child’s habits are unique and require an individualised approach.