Thumb sucking is the act of putting the thumb into the mouth and rhythmically repeating sucking contact for a prolonged duration. It can also be accomplished with any piece of skin within reach (such as the big toe) and is considered to be soothing and therapeutic for the person. Thumb sucking is generally associated with babies and young children.
Children suck on objects (including pacifiers) to soothe themselves; sucking is one of a baby’s natural reflexes and completely typical for babies and young children. Although some adults do suck their thumbs it is rarely performed in public, which leads many to believe that adults do not suck their thumbs at all. The private act of thumb sucking by adults is due to the fear of embarrassment or shyness. There are some stigmas attached to thumb sucking in public for adults.
Thumb sucking can start as early as 15 weeks of growth in the uterus or within months of being born. Prior to 12 weeks, the fetus has webbed digits. Most thumb-suckers stop gradually by the age of five years. Rarely does it continue into adulthood. It is not uncommon for thumb-suckers to suck both thumbs or their fingers. Finger sucking is synonymous with thumb sucking in effect and treatment, but less common.
Thumb-sucking can cause problems for dental development. To prevent their children from sucking their thumbs some parents put hot sauce or sour potions on their child's thumbs — although this is not a procedure encouraged by the American Dental Association : or the Association of Pediatric Dentists During the 1950s, parents could get a series of sharp prongs known as "hay-rakes" cemented to a child's teeth to discourage sucking. Most children stop sucking on thumbs, pacifiers or other objects on their own between two and four years of age. No harm is done to their teeth or jaws until permanent teeth start to erupt. The only time it might cause concern is if it goes on beyond 6 to 8 years of age. At this time, it may affect the shape of the oral cavity or dentition.
Summary of Best Practices Recommendations:
In 1919, in issue 20 of Neurologisches Zentralblatt Dr. Galant published the confession of a young woman who had not given up this activity as a child in which she described the satisfaction derived from it as analogous to sexual satisfaction.
Handling a thumb-sucker ; "A young child is capable of hearing the truth about herself and is certainly not damaged by said truth."
Aug 07, 2006; Q: My 5-year-old has been sucking her thumb since she was 2 months old. The problem is she likes to touch faces when she's doing...