Thumb sucking is a behavior found in humans, chimpanzees , captive ring-tailed lemurs ,  and other primates. It can also be accomplished with any organ within reach such as other fingers and toes and is considered to be soothing and therapeutic for the person. As a child develops the habit, it will usually develop a "favorite" finger to suck on. At birth, a baby will reflexively suck any object placed in its mouth; this is the sucking reflex responsible for breastfeeding. From the very first time they engage in nutritive feeding, infants learn that the habit can not only provide valuable nourishment, but also a great deal of pleasure, comfort, and warmth. Whether from a mother, bottle, or pacifier, this behavior, over time, begins to become associated with a very strong, self-soothing, and pleasurable oral sensation.
How Does Thumb Sucking Affect the Teeth?
Special Offers. Do you remember when you stopped sucking your thumb? Nearly nine out of 10 babies start to suck on their thumb or another part of their hands just hours after birth. For some people, the behavior continues through adulthood. While thumb sucking isn't an issue in babies or young children, adult thumb sucking may be embarrassing and in some cases may pose oral health problems. Whether you're an adult who sucks their thumb or know someone who does, here's what you need to know about the habit and how to address it. Thumb sucking in infants and young children is a natural impulse.
Adult Thumb Sucking: How to Break the Habit
Watching your little bundle find his thumb and start sucking on it is cute when he's a baby, especially if sucking on his thumb means he doesn't have to rely so much on a parent for soothing. But it's not so cute when your child is still sucking his thumb at 4, 5, 6, or even 7 years old. The issue is not just cosmetic — it can lead to problems with his teeth down the road. Sucking is a survival reflex that's life-saving for a child, says Khalid I.
There are obviously some physical consequences of prolonged thumb-sucking, primarily its effects on the alignment of the palate roof of the mouth and the teeth. At this point, don't obssess about that because the damage has already been done. Consult with an orthodontist if you think any treatment is needed. As you stated, thumb-sucking does provide comfort to children, and in order for them to stop, they usually need to figure out some other way of comforting themselves at stressful times.