Is Thumb Sucking Bad for Child’s Teeth?

Often, we don’t realize habits can cause damage and changes to the growth of our child but, should we be worried if our child is sucking on their thumb?

No, not necessarily. According to the American Dental Association, thumb sucking is a typical, natural reflex in infants. Infants and toddlers suck on their thumb as a coping mechanism for anxiety and parental separation; it helps them feel secure, comfortable, happy and it’s even a way for them to get to know the world around them. It’s an acceptable habit to soothe them and help them fall asleep.

So, when does it start to become an inappropriate habit? When it continues to be a habit after the age of 4, it becomes inappropriate. Since it is a natural reflex among infants and toddlers, we shouldn’t be too concerned about having them stop the habit. Sucking their thumb begins to fade between the ages of 2 to 4, roughly the same time that permanent teeth start to erupt. If by the age of 4 your child is continuing to suck on their thumb, then there is a need for an intervention to stop their thumbsucking habit. Why?

Depending on the intensity and the amount of time your child sucks their thumb, it can determine whether dental problems will result from it.

Some of the dental problems that can arise are:

  • Front teeth extend outward.
  • Bite becomes open and not let upper and lower teeth touch.  
  • Improper growth of mouth and alignment of teeth (both baby teeth and permanent teeth).
  • Changes in the roof of the mouth.  

If you’re concerned with your child sucking on their thumb, you can always consult with your dentist to ensure there is no damage to their development. But even as parents we can take measures of our own to help our children overcome this habit.

We can:

  • Praise them for not sucking on their thumb.
  • Focus and address their anxiety and discomfort by providing them with other alternatives to deal with it or to help ease their discomfort.

Habits can be hard to break when they begin at a very young age, so keeping an eye out on your child as this habit develops and continues into their toddler years is a good idea to prevent further dental issues. Visiting your dentist when your child’s baby teeth have erupted is essential to maintaining good oral hygiene and to essentially monitor their teeth development.


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