Thumb Sucking

Thumb SuckingWhat causes finger sucking?

Sucking is a normal, instinctive behavior that babies use to calm and soothe themselves. This may begin in-utero, although most babies begin sucking between 3 and 6 months when they have the motor skills to voluntarily put their fingers in their mouths. Toddlers may begin sucking by imitating siblings or other children in their preschool or day care settings.


What happens if sucking continues?

Dental Problems

Just like orthodontic appliances can reposition teeth, pressure applied by a finger can change the position of the teeth too. The most common types of bite problems associated with sucking are open bites, overjets, and crossbites.

Speech and Swallowing Problems

When the tongue pushes against or between the teeth rather than upward against the palate, a tongue thrust swallow occurs. Tongue thrust swallows are frequently related to “s” distortions or “lisps” and distortions of many other sounds as well.

Emotional Problems

Children who suck their fingers are often perceived by others to be emotionally insecure and immature. This can lead to a social stigma, a poor self image and possible problems with peer interaction.

Physical Problems

Side effects such as calluses, infections, and viruses are frequently caused by contaminated fingers in the mouth.

When should treatment begin?

Five and six year old children who have a desire to overcome their sucking habits are ideal candidates for treatment. By eliminating sucking early, associated problems can be minimized and sometimes reversed.

We can help:

The specialists at Jodie K. Schuller & Associates are professional speech and language therapists, many with over 25 years of experience in communicative disorders. Licensed by the state of California as speech-language pathologists, our therapists have completed advanced training in oral-motor development taught by leading experts in the field such as Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson, MS, CCC-SLP, and Char Boshart, M.A., CCC-SLP.  This training has prepared our therapists to diagnose and treat oral-motor disorders involving drooling, chewing, swallowing and open-mouth breathing as well as speech production disorders.  Therapists have also been trained through the International Association of Orofacial Mylogy (IAOM) to identify and treat unhealthy tongue thrusts and improper tongue resting postures.  With this advanced training, therapists are prepared to eliminate thumb sucking and to treat individuals who suffer from serious related issues such as Temporomandibular Joint Pain (TMJ), chronic headaches and sleep apnea.

What is the parent’s role?

The parents’ role is to provide empathy and support. The orofacial myologist and the program will motivate the children to accept responsibility for their finger sucking habits and eliminate them.

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