Can Thumb Sucking Cause Crooked Teeth?

Pediatric Dentistry for Avon, Connecticut

Many babies and young children suck on their thumbs. This is a normal behavior that often begins before birth. Sucking on a thumb can be soothing and can help a child feel safe. It can also be relaxing and helps many babies and young children fall asleep.

Should You Be Concerned If Your Child Sucks on a Thumb?

Sucking on a thumb in the early years should not be a cause of concern for parents. The practice is fine as long as it does not continue too long. Thumb sucking can become problematic if a child continues to do it after the permanent teeth start to erupt.

After the age of about 5 or 6, continuing to suck on a thumb can affect the alignment of your child’s teeth. Sucking on a thumb for a long period of time can affect the alignment of the permanent teeth and can cause malocclusion.

Malocclusion is the misalignment of the teeth and the upper and lower jaws. If your child continues to suck on his or her thumb past the age of 5 or 6, it can cause the permanent teeth to be crooked or overcrowded or can cause the jaws to not fit together the way they should. Prolonged thumb sucking can push out the front teeth, which can lead to a need for orthodontic work later.

Prolonged thumb sucking can also affect the shape of the roof of the mouth. This can affect a child’s speech.

Children who vigorously suck on their thumbs are more likely to experience dental problems later on. They may also have problems with their baby teeth.

How to Get Your Child to Give up Thumb Sucking

You should encourage your child to give up thumb sucking by the age of 5 or 6. Do not scold your child for sucking on his or her thumb. Instead, try to reduce anxiety so your child will not feel the urge to suck on the thumb and praise him or her for not sucking. You can try placing a bandage or sock over your child’s hand to prevent sucking.

You can also seek help from your pediatric dentist. A dentist can talk to your child and may be able to create a custom mouth appliance to prevent your child from sucking on his or her thumb.

You should not be concerned if your baby or toddler sucks on a thumb, but as your child gets older this could become a problem. It can lead to crooked or misaligned teeth that could require orthodontic work later. Try to get your child to give up thumb sucking by the age of 5 or 6 and seek help from the team at CT Pediatric Dentistry if necessary.

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David Epstein
CT Pediatric Dentist
David Epstein
A.B., D.D.S., M.S.D.

23 Jan 2022 12:55 AM