Thumb Sucking and Your Child’s Teeth


How bad is thumb sucking? Is It Necessary to Stop?

Every child can form a habit known as thumb sucking. It is a normal habit that babies develop, even before they're born! It is known to be soothing and comfortable for them, and it allows them to explore their environment. However, after the age of 3, bite problems could arise.

Dangers of Thumb Sucking.

In normal developments, the upper teeth overlap with the lower teeth naturally. But when the thumb sucking progresses past the age of 3, the thumb (or even pacifiers) puts pressure on the teeth, interfering with normal tooth eruption and jaw growth. This can develop into an ‘open bite,’ meaning the teeth don't overlap when a child bites together. This leaves an open space between the upper and lower teeth. Thumb sucking is something to keep an eye on as the child grows older.

How to Get Your Child to Stop Sucking Their Thumb

Thumb sucking habits usually break between the ages of 2 to 4 on their own, so at times you may want to ignore it. Once the child is older, however, it may be time to introduce positive reinforcements to get your child to stop. Positive reinforcements include:

  • Praise & Reward. Explain to your child why it's so important not to suck thumbs and think of a way to reward them for not doing it — as long as it's not with tooth-harming sweets! Stickers or an activity they enjoy might serve well. Always offer gentle reminders rather than scold when you notice a thumb in your child's mouth, and praise them when they stop.
  • Comfort & Distract. Children have different triggers for thumb sucking. Does your child tend to do it when stressed or bored? If so, some extra hugs might help, or an activity to keep those little hands busy.
  • Get Creative. You know your child best. Maybe there's a method that would be particularly motivating to them. For example, you could tie his pacifier to a helium balloon and send it up to the Tooth Fairy. When she receives it, she can leave a special present under his pillow!
  • Let Us Help. If your child sucks her thumb, fingers, or a pacifier, be sure to let us know. We can talk to her and help her understand how it will help her teeth to kick the habit. If necessary, we can fit her with a special oral appliance called a tongue crib, which physically prevents thumb sucking and can usually break the habit in a few months.

If your child’s oral health is in question, schedule a visit to discuss steps to change your child’s behavior. It is important to maintain your child’s regular schedule of dental exams, starting at the age of one. Here at West Gate Dental, we can help you and your child in all of your dental healthcare needs; everything from oral hygiene and prevention to monitoring growth and development. Contact Us today to make your first appointment, we are here to make sure all of your needs are met. We are excited to go on your child’s journey with you!

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