17

It is "common" knowledge that sucking your thumb (for little kids) is a "bad habit.

Is there any truth to this, and is it just a bad habit or actually unhealthy for you?

  • 1
    Could you elaborate more on what "bad" means in this context? The more specific you are, the more specific and detailed the answers you will get will be. – Borror0 Apr 9 '11 at 0:17
  • I am not sure what I mean by bad, for example, eating cake is good for you as it gives you energy, but it is bad if consumed excessively(perhaps makes you fat-which may be "bad" or increases your cholesterol). In any case, the "bad" I am using is as general as it can possibly be. – picakhu Apr 9 '11 at 0:20
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If nothing else, thumb sucking can have a pretty negative impact on teeth.

The American Dental Association says:

After the permanent teeth come in, sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth. It can also cause changes in the roof of the mouth. The intensity of the sucking is a factor that determines whether or not dental problems may result. If children rest their thumbs passively in their mouths, they are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs. Some aggressive thumbsuckers may cause problems with their baby (primary) teeth. If you notice changes in your child’s primary teeth, consult your dentist.

Wikipedia has a decently sourced article on the subject.

7

It can have multiple negative effects, first of all it can cause your teeth to be misaligned, but using a dummy (or pacifier) can also have the same effect.

After the permanent teeth come in, sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth. It can also cause changes in the roof of the mouth. The intensity of the sucking is a factor that determines whether or not dental problems may result. If children rest their thumbs passively in their mouths, they are less likely to have difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs. Some aggressive thumbsuckers may cause problems with their baby (primary) teeth. If you notice changes in your child’s primary teeth, consult your dentist.

It can also result in tounge thrust that can result in speech problems.

When of short duration, they typically do not have a significant effect on the development of the oral musculature, the relationship of the dentition and occlusion, or on speech development and production. However, such practices, if persistent across many years may result in a myofunctional condition. That is, the muscles in the front of the mouth (lips and surrounding area) are used, while other muscles (e.g., the masseter) are not as active. In addition, a forward carriage of the tongue may also exist at rest and during swallowing. These factors in combination may lead to a persistent tongue thrust which can further influence the oral muscle development, occlusion, and alignment of teeth.

Finally there is some evidence that thumb sucking can in severe cases result in digit deformity.

We report our experience with severe digital deformities caused by prolonged finger sucking. Our analysis of nine patients demonstrated that the deformity was mainly located in the proximal and middle phalanges of the affected digit(s). We have reviewed the literature, enumerated the common patterns of “finger sucking” and explained the resulting deformities. Corrective osteotomy, preferably at the metacarpal base level, is required in severe deformities.

It should be noted that all of the above are potential risks of consistent thumb sucking for an extended period of time, it is known that thumb sucking (or use of a pacifier) for a limited time can actually be a useful way for a small child to comfort themselves. Basically if your younster does it now and again there is no need to freak out :).

There are some adults who like to suck thier thumb. There is some fairly detailed information about it here, but it appears to be based on personal experience.

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