How Does Thumb Sucking Affect Your Child’s Teeth?

little girl thumb sucking teeth

How Does Thumb Sucking Affect Your Child’s Teeth?

As a parent, you want the absolute best for your child, and that includes good dental health. While it may be a source of comfort at a young age, thumb sucking can damage your child’s mouth and their future permanent teeth. 

Usually, children will break the habit of thumb sucking on their own when they are around 2-4 years old. Beyond the age of four, it may be necessary to talk to your family dentist to get advice on how to protect your child’s teeth from thumb-sucking damage.

Dental Damage from Thumb Sucking

It is natural for children to suck their thumbs, but vigorous thumb sucking can lead to some complicated dental problems later on. The alignment of your child’s permanent teeth and the shape of their mouth can be altered by excessive thumb sucking. It can also put pressure on the roof of your child’s mouth, causing it to narrow.  

Oral health issues that may arise from thumb sucking can include:

  • Bite problems, such as teeth tipping inward, overbites, or misaligned top and bottom teeth
  • Changes to jaw shape
  • Speech impediments like lisping
  • Mouth sensitivity
  • Crooked teeth
  • Gaps between teeth
  • Abnormal tongue position


As long as your child stops sucking their thumb before their permanent teeth come in, most of these issues should not present themselves. However, once their adult teeth begin to erupt, it is imperative to break the thumb sucking habit before it causes lifelong dental complications.

How to Prevent Thumb Sucking

Young children often suck their thumbs for a source of comfort when they are feeling insecure. Working with your family to identify and address the root of your child’s anxiety can help you encourage them to find different coping mechanisms.

Remember that praising your child when they do not suck their thumb is more effective than scolding them when they do. Another thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t replace a thumb-sucking habit with a pacifier. Pacifiers can have the same damaging effect on your child’s teeth.

With older children, involving them in the discussion of their thumb sucking habit can encourage them to alter their behavior. Asking your dentist to gently and simply explain the effects of thumb sucking can also have a major influence. Allow your child to choose a method for stopping, so they feel empowered and do not get discouraged. 

Correcting Crooked Teeth

If your child has crooked teeth from thumb sucking, orthodontic treatments can help to shift them back into the proper positions. Braces, retainers, Invisalign®, and other orthodontic appliances can be used to adjust a bite or align crooked teeth. 

These procedures can also:

  • Decrease the risk of tooth decay
  • Improve speech by correcting an improper bite
  • Fix alignment jaw problems


Talk to Your Dentist About Thumb Sucking

Children should visit the dentist as soon as their first tooth erupts, and no later than one year old, to check on their early dental development. Having a compassionate, professional dental team in your corner can help you and your family maintain straight and healthy smiles. 

The friendly dentists at Hicks Dental Group in Prescott, Arizona are here to provide your family with comprehensive dental care. We can help you correct crooked teeth from thumb sucking in older children or prevent thumb sucking damage in young children. Contact us by sending a message to or by calling 928-445-6030 today.



Photo by Sean Foster on Unsplash(05/12/22)