Thumb Sucking & Your Child’s Dental Health

Thumb sucking and dental health

Thumb Sucking & Your Child’s Dental Health

Both prolonged thumb-sucking and pacifier usage are typical dental problems in children and can eventually harm your child’s smile. Most frequently, newborns, toddlers, and young kids utilize pacifiers or thumb-sucking to comfort themselves or reduce anxiety. The benefits of thumb-sucking and pacifier use outweigh the risks to your child’s oral health, especially if the behavior persists through the toddler years.

Why Is Thumb-Sucking Damaging?

Both thumb sucking and pacifier usage have certain advantageous effects on babies and toddlers. It frequently begins while a baby is teething and provides your child with a coping tool for when they feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed. Less restless nights for parents who are already weary might result from allowing thumb sucking or pacifier use.

The disadvantages of pacifier usage and persistent thumb-sucking unfortunately go hand in hand with their benefits. Thumb-sucking usually won’t have much of an effect on your child’s grin if it is merely a temporary habit. However, if your child is four, five, or even older and still sucking their thumb or using a pacifier, it may have a harmful impact on the development of their teeth, jaw, and other parts of their body.

Problems with Malocclusion

Malocclusion, or the misalignment of the upper and lower teeth can be a problem as a result of excessive thumb sucking and pacifier use. An open bite is the type of malocclusion that occurs most frequently. Even when the mouth is closed, an open bite results in no contact between the front upper and lower teeth.

Children that suck their thumbs or use pacifiers over the recommended age frequently overbites. Overbites affect the ability of the front teeth to operate because the front teeth exaggeratedly overlap the bottom teeth.

Basically, frequent thumbsucking can lead to gaps in the teeth and improper jaw alignment. Your child may find it challenging to chew and bite into food as a result, and in some situations, this may even influence their speech, as we’ll cover later. Some kids who deal with malocclusion difficulties will also become self-conscious about how they look and stop smiling completely.

Changes to the Jaw and Facial Development

The jaw and face will alter significantly as a child grows and develops from infancy through puberty. The orofacial complex, which consists of the jaw, muscles of the mouth and face, and teeth, might grow differently if a pacifier is used for an extended period of time or if a person suckers their thumb continuously. The child’s general face shape is impacted by the teeth shifting unnaturally as a result of the repeated pressure from the excessive sucking action.

Simply said, the jaw cannot position correctly when a thumb or pacifier is continually positioned between the teeth. For a youngster to efficiently bite, chew, or speak, the facial muscles must adjust how they function if the misalignment is severe enough. This might have negative effects on a child’s face features and structure, and it can possibly cause an orofacial myological condition (OMD) that needs intensive care.

Effects On Speech Development

Use of pacifiers and thumb sucking on a regular basis might potentially impair your child’s speech. This is frequently caused by the open bite or overbite that results from this ingrained behavior. With kids that routinely suck their thumbs, the tongue will also have a propensity to advance past the teeth. Significant malocclusions and poor tongue control can cause a lisp or difficulty with consonants like S, Z, L, and R.

Additionally, it’s crucial for newborns to practice different sounds by molding their mouths and using their facial muscles while they chatter. These crucial chances for language development and practice are lost on babies and toddlers who excessively suck their thumbs or rely on pacifiers. Even though this is not a dental concern, it should be included when discussing thumb-sucking and the development of speech.

How Your Dentist Can Help With These Problems

The dentist will inspect your kids’ teeth when you bring them in for routine exams to look for cavities and other dental problems. This examination will involve a dental x-ray as well as a careful examination for any orthodontic issues, such as an overbite or open bite.

There are various orthodontic procedures that, if your child reaches the right age, can correct even the most severe malocclusion. Over time, invisible braces like Invisalign, ceramic and metal braces can successfully fix alignment problems. Depending on each orthodontic patient’s particular circumstances, the optimal choice will vary. With you and your kid, your orthodontist should be able to go over the advantages of each orthodontic procedure.

Tips to Help Your Child Break the Thumb-Sucking Habit

Your child’s usage of a pacifier and thumb sucking is just a habit that they have formed. It’s a typical issue that many kids deal with as they become older, and parents find it challenging. Similar to quitting any other bad habit, getting your child to stop takes time, effort, and close supervision. These recommendations may be helpful:

  • Try to minimize the amount of time your kids can suck their thumbs or use pacifiers. It might be as easy as saying she can only use it when she’s in her favorite chair or when he’s in his cot. You might aid in weaning your youngster off the habit by strictly maintaining these restrictions.
  • Offer a replacement if your youngster is feeling uneasy. This might be a cozy blanket or a cuddly toy that they can hug and snuggle to unwind.
  • Assist your youngster in growing their sense of self. Children frequently don’t even realize they are sucking their thumbs. They’ll start to become gradually more conscious of the times they do it if you bring it up to them.
  • Congratulate your child on their achievements. Tell your child how well he’s doing if you see that he isn’t sucking his thumb as much as he typically would.


Unfortunately, overusing pacifiers and thumb sucking can harm your child’s oral health and general development in a number of ways, including:

  • Misalignments and malocclusion issues
  • Modifications to the jaw and facial features
  • Problems eating and biting
  • Improving communication and language abilities

The sooner you can assist your youngster in breaking the habit, the better for their smile and oral health. However, if your kid is having alignment or spacing problems as a result of excessive thumb-sucking or other pediatric dental conditions like mesiodens, your dentist is prepared to aid with orthodontic treatments. If you’re concerned that your child’s thumb-sucking or pacifier use has had a harmful influence on their teeth, schedule an appointment with your pediatric dentist.

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