How Thumb Sucking Can Affect Your Child's Teeth and Jaw

dental practice

The habit of thumb sucking is common in toddlers and one that is generally harmless while they only have baby teeth. Most children suck their thumb and tend to stop doing somewhere between the ages of three and six. Ideally, you should attempt to discourage your child from thumb sucking once they are five years old.

Unfortunately, in toddlers who are vigorous thumb suckers or those that suck their thumb for an extended period of time, this habit can cause problems with the alignment of their baby teeth. If they continue to suck their thumb once their adult teeth have started to emerge, it can cause problems with the development of these permanent teeth, which is a more serious concern.

The pressure of the thumb on the teeth can affect the alignment and position of teeth, resulting in crooked teeth, protruding teeth (teeth that stick out) or overcrowding. This happens because the teeth grow around the position of the finger being sucked.
Another detrimental effect of late thumb-sucking is a misaligned bite, where the lower and upper teeth do not meet correctly (causing an underbite or overbite).
As well as affecting your child’ physical appearance, a misaligned bite can also cause chronic jaw discomfort or cause problems with chewing food. In severe cases it can affect your child’s speech. This type of dental damage is also caused by the use of pacifiers/dummies.
Your dentist will be very happy to discuss your child’s thumb-sucking habits at their next check-up, and determine if they having a detrimental impact on your child’s teeth alignment or bite.
If your child’s teeth are unaffected and their dentist recommends that your child needs to stop sucking their thumb, they will be happy to suggest some methods of intervention to ease them out of this habit before any damage is caused. Although it may be difficult to wean your child off sucking their thumb, it will be worth it in the long run.
If your child already has experienced some dental damage due to thumb sucking, your dentist will be happy to discuss the options. Baby teeth tend to return to their normal position once thumb sucking ceases and any damage to their alignment will not affect permanent teeth yet to erupt.

If your child’s permanent teeth have been affected, their dentist will recommend the orthodontic intervention required to restore their mouth to a healthy state.