Can thumb sucking affect your kids oral health?


Thumb sucking is a natural reflex for kids that mostly starts just after birth. Even though it provides comfort and safety, it can result in oral issues in the future. Are you a concerned parent worried about your child's thumb sucking teeth behaviour? Let's know about all ins and out of thumb sucking and how to assist your child.

It is usual for any child to suck their thumb based on their age and the intensity of their thumb-sucking habit. In their growing stage, putting objects and fingers in their mouths is one of the best ways to explore, incorporate and understand their environment. In addition, some children suck their thumbs to get comfort, while others are given pacifiers to suck and make them comfortable.

As per American Dental Association, your child will slowly stop this habit on their own between the ages of two and four. They might enhance or start again whenever they are under stress or for self-soothing while going to sleep. Even if no exclusive condition occurs with this habit of thumb sucking, it is vital to keep an eye on it as it can result in some dental issues when the practice becomes severe or continues for an extended time.

Some of the oral issues of your child in association with chronic thumb sucking might include:

  • Issues in palate
  • Speech issues
  • Over biting
  • Overjet
  • Misaligned bite

When is it important to stop thumb sucking?

Every child's health history is different, so there is no particular time to start encouraging them to stop the behavior. Other than age, the perfect time to interfere is mainly determined by the intensity of thumb sucking or how vigorously the behavior is with your child. For example, thumb sucking is not an issue until your child is five years old. But post that age, thumb sucking can lead to oral health issues such as misaligned bite. But still, it is good to start encouraging your child to stop this habit sooner so that it will not get deeply ingrained.

If you observe any change in your child's teeth or bite alignment, it is best to visit your dental doctor to gain expert insight. There are many powerful choices that you can make to help your child leave this behavior or develop some other healthy alternatives.

Thumb sucking has long-lasting negative impacts when persisting after age five. Here are a few possible side effects of intense thumb sucking:

  • Open bite: The most severe side effect of thumb sucking is oral malocclusion, a term that describes tooth misalignment, which is visible when your child closes their mouth. Open bite mainly occurs when the top and bottom front teeth are directed outwardly. It might need orthodontic treatment in the future or might increase other dental misalignments requiring orthodontic treatment.
  • Overbite: Same as another malocclusion, overbite occurs when teeth are directed outwardly. In any overbite configuration, misalignment occurs only with the upper front teeth. Here, the upper front teeth cover the bottom teeth when your child covers their mouth instead of touching the top and bottom teeth. This misalignment has an impact on the shape of the smile and face.
  • Skin issues: Children sucking their thumb for several years might experience some uncomfortable or severe skin issues in their thumb. In many cases, the skin might crack or start bleeding, making it vulnerable to various infections. Your child's thumb might look calloused.
  • Speech impairment: As thumb sucking has an impact on the development of teeth, palate, and jaw, therefore, it also affects the way your child speaks and eats. Prolonged thumb sucking can lead to lisping and other speech impairments, including being unable to pronounce some hard consonants such as D and T.

How to help your child to stop thumb sucking?

When the matter is about guiding, and child's behavior, emphasizing healthy behaviors is healthier and more efficient than giving punishments for unhealthy behaviors. Here are a few steps that you can follow for your child to discourage the behavior of thumb sucking:

  • First, offer them suitable replacements for coping with stress.
  • Avoid all situations that might enhance your child's focus, such as shaming, admonishing, or criticizing.
  • Strengthen healthy behaviors such as giving them rewards and praise for not sucking their thumb.
  • You can discourage this behavior by putting a bandage on their thumb or covering their hand with something at night.
  • If your child is old, you can teach them how thumb sucking can negatively impact oral health.

If your child is facing trouble bringing the changes on their own, it's best to consult a dental professional to receive some expert insights. They might recommend using some bitter medications, a thumb sucking guard, or dental appliances to discourage thumb sucking. MyDentalPlan is India's one of the most extensive dental networks that have accelerated standardized, best quality, and highly affordable oral health services.




About the Author:

Suprithi Choudhary, M.Pharm (Pharmacology) Medical Content writer

Suprithi is a Pharma Professional working as a medical content writer and previously worked as a Research Scientist and Senior Research Analyst


  • C.M Academy
  • Attended the Panjab University- Chandigarh, Pharma post-graduate in Pharmacology

Special thanks to Dr Deepak Kulkarni, a dental surgeon with over 23 years of experience who proofread this blog. He graduated from the H.K.E's Dental College, Gulbarga, and has certifications in ACHS International Accreditation Education Plan; Advanced Rotary Endodontic - Restorative Continuum; and Leadership, Team Building and Customer Service Leadership from the Oscar Murphy International.

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