Can Thumb-Sucking Affect My Child’s Teeth?

Child Thumb Sucking

Thumb-sucking is a common and natural habit among infants and children to help soothe themselves. In most cases, your child will grow out of this habit, usually between the ages of 2 and 5; however, some children may continue this habit as a toddler and into their preschool years and will need encouragement to stop. Continuing to suck the thumb past the age of 5 may have a negative impact on your child’s dental health and speech development, meaning it may later need correcting. In this blog, we’ll explore the reasons and impact of thumb-sucking and how to help your child stop this habit.


Why Do Children Suck Their Thumbs?

Thumb-sucking often starts at a very young age, with some babies even starting when they are in the uterus, and is a natural reflex for children, bringing comfort and feelings of security. In between feeds or while going to sleep, thumb-sucking can help soothe your child when they feel bored, hungry, restless, afraid, or sleepy.


The Impact of Thumb-Sucking:

There can be a variety of dental consequences that can occur due to sucking your thumb, such as:

  • Dental Misalignment – Prolonged thumb-sucking can lead to a change in your child’s tooth alignment as well as a potential open bite where the top and bottom teeth do not meet.
  • Other Dental Issues – Overbite, sensitive roof of the mouth, abnormal tongue patterns, changes in jaw shape—resulting in speech issues.
  • Speech Issues – This can lead to a speech impediment, such as a lisp or difficulty pronouncing certain words or sounds.
  • Palate Shape – The roof of your child’s mouth (the palate) can be arched, influencing the alignment of teeth and speech development.


Breaking the Habit:

There are a variety of ways to help your child stop sucking their thumb:

  • Talk To Them – Speak gently to your child about the consequences of thumb-sucking and explain why they should stop.
  • Positive Reinforcement – By praising and rewarding your child for not sucking their thumb, can create a positive association between the two and help your child break their habit.
  • Comfort and Distractions – Identify your child’s triggers and when they choose to thumb-suck and find different ways to help your child cope with those feelings.
  • Be Creative – Find different ways to explain and reward your child for understanding why the habit is bad. For example, you can create a rewards chart and add a point when they choose not to suck their thumb.
  • Talk To Your Child’s Dentist – Your dentist can help provide guidance and advice in terms of thumb-sucking, as well as different ways to break the habit and correct any dental issues from this. Not only this, if you notice signs of dental issues or speech problems, contact your paediatric dentist immediately to prevent further these issues.
  • Put Something On Their Thumb As A Reminder – You can add a plaster or something similar to their thumb as a reminder that they should not suck their thumb.


Thumb-sucking is generally harmless in the early years of your child’s life; however, if the habits are prolonged or vigorous, it can affect their dental health and speech development. By working with your child and consulting your dentist, you can help ensure their oral health remains healthy and can help find treatment if their teeth need correcting. If you are looking for a dentist to speak to or a dentist for your child, feel free to contact us today!