Thumb sucking (digit sucking) or the use of a dummy is very common amongst babies, toddlers and children. Sucking on fingers is a natural self soothing ability that babies start as foetuses in utero (in the womb). It can help them relax or make them feel safe or happy.
When it becomes a dental problem is if this habit is not ceased by the time their permanent teeth come in. Front teeth start to grow anywhere from age 4-6. The frequency, duration and intensity of the habit will determine the extent of the deformation on the teeth and even growth of the jaw.
If your child only sucks on her thumb to fall asleep the effect will be minimal. If she rests her dummy/finger in her mouth passively, again, this will have a less significant effect on teeth position and jaw shape. If your child vigorously sucks her thumb or dummy or spends most of the day or night doing this, the effects can be severe. If it continues into the adult teeth (after age 5+) the effects may be difficult to correct and require orthodontic treatment.
Your dentist can advise you on any teeth/jaw effects that have occurred as a result of thumb sucking and advise you on methods to try to deter this habit if your child is reaching an age where it may become destructive to her future smile.
Hope this has been helpful
Dr Jess BDSc. Melb. Hons.
Oak Tree Ballarat Dental