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The Role Genetics Has on Thumb Sucking in Adolescents

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As an identifiable stage of physical and psychological development, adolescence is a disorienting time of discovery that traditionally begins with the onset of puberty. This transitional phase of life existing between childhood and adulthood raises endless questions for preteens and teens about their identity and independence.

During this ongoing process of discovery, some adolescents unconsciously turn to different self-soothing behaviors or stress-relieving habits, including non-nutritive sucking. Here is what concerned parents should know about the role genetics has on thumb sucking in adolescents.

Habitual Soothing Behaviors

Human beings have inalienable natural instincts or inborn patterns of behavior. Proven by recorded evidence throughout centuries, there is a common tendency among humanity to act in a certain way in certain situations. To illustrate, many infants—from birth or in utero—instinctively suck their fingers, thumbs, or other objects. Most young children stop this rooting reflex as they grow older and turn to more age-appropriate self-soothing actions.

Less commonly, thumb sucking continues into the tween and teenage years as a stress- or anxiety-related response for comfort and security. According to the psychological experts at Psychology Today, frequent sucking is not necessarily addictive or problematic; however, “the older one gets, the more of a problem thumb sucking is from a medical perspective.” Non-nutritive sucking during adolescence can indicate or lead to other issues of well-being.

The Influential Role of Genes

Concerned parents may wonder about the role genetics has on thumb sucking in adolescents. Thorough research has not been completed, but a professional case study speculates a relation between a behavioral genetic component and prolonged non-nutritive sucking. This theory is due to the fact that children with chronic sucking habits are often nervous, anxious, stressed, or bored. Behavioral genes influence these varying emotions in adolescents and their consequent behaviors.

Remember, the stage of adolescence is a transitory time of developmental change affecting each person’s emotions, innate character, personality, and decision-making processes in different ways. While environmental factors affect this phase of life, an individual’s genetic makeup can possibly play an even more influential role in how children subconsciously release tension throughout adolescence.

The Effects of Chronic Thumb Sucking

Those who do not stop non-nutritive sucking behaviors early on can carry these long-term detrimental habits throughout their lifetime. Alternative stress relievers are advisable, as prolonged thumb sucking at the adolescent age has adverse effects on physical, oral, and social health.

The TGuard AeroThumbis an effective device to stop thumb sucking behaviors with ease and speed. Recommended by dental health professionals, our product’s design offers an exceptional method to cease sucking habits for all ages. Read the reviews and success stories for our appliance kit today.


Behavioral genetics and thumb sucking in adolescents” from the Dentistry 3000 Journal

Can Thumb Sucking Be Addictive?” from Psychology Today