Thumb sucking and the use of a dummy/pacifier doesn’t mean your child is destined for kids’ speech therapy sessions. In most cases, it’s a short-term practice that young children rely on for self-calming and will grow out of by the time they are three or four years old.
However, children that don’t grow out of thumb sucking are shown to be more at risk of speech problems, according to a 2009 study by US and Chile researchers.
Thumb sucking can seem harmless enough, but long-term, it may result in a myofunctional condition. This condition is when the muscles at the front of the mouth, particularly around the lips, are used, but others, such as the masseter muscles, are not.
This condition, as well as a forward carriage of the tongue, can lead to a detrimental impact on teeth alignment, occlusion, and oral muscle development, not to mention persistent tongue thrust.
What is Tongue Thrust?
Tongue thrust is a swallowing pattern that occurs during early childhood. A mature swallowing pattern gradually replaces that tongue thrust around the age of nine. However, children who suck their thumb are at risk of this swallowing pattern continuing, which can lead to distortion in speech, particularly with tongue tip sounds.