How Thumb Sucking Damages Oral Health

How Thumb Sucking Damages Oral Health

Did you know that if left unchecked, thumb-sucking can have a significant impact on your child's teeth and gums? That's right! In fact, it’s the leading cause of dental problems in young children. Not convinced? Here are some of the potential consequences of thumb-sucking.


Malocclusion is an orthodontic term used to describe a situation where the upper and lower teeth are misaligned during biting or chewing.

This misalignment can be caused by thumb sucking in two ways: first, it causes changes in jaw alignment; second, it pushes the front teeth forward while pulling the back teeth backward.

The longer your child sucks their thumb, the more likely they are to develop a malocclusion.

Crowding of Teeth

Thumb sucking pushes teeth out of proper alignment and can cause overcrowding of teeth as well as gaps between them.

This means there isn’t enough room for adult teeth when they come in, which could lead to further issues that require professional treatment.

Crowding of teeth can also contribute to tooth decay as plaque accumulates in hard-to-reach areas between crowded teeth due to lack of proper brushing technique.

Changes in Palate Shape

Prolonged thumb sucking stretches and flattens the palate (roof of the mouth), which not only affects its appearance but also has an effect on speech development since pronunciation relies heavily on pressure differences between different parts of the palate.

If left uncorrected, this issue may require speech therapy or orthodontic treatment later on in life.  

Changes in Facial Structure

Prolonged finger-sucking can also cause changes in facial structure such as a crossbite—when one jaw is shifted forward or backward—or a protruding chin or cheekbone due to changes in jaw alignment from prolonged thumb-sucking pressure points on certain areas of your child’s face. This could lead to permanent deformations if not treated early enough with braces or other corrective treatments. 

Risk of Infection

Bacteria from your child’s hands may transfer onto their thumbs when they suck them, putting them at risk for infections like gingivitis or cavities.

Additionally, excessive moisture exposure from prolonged thumb sucking can result in chapping or cracking around your child's mouth area which could then lead to infections like cold sores or staph infections.

How to Help Your Child Stop Sucking their Thumb

As you can see, thumb sucking can have a significant impact on your child's oral health. But don't worry, there are several strategies that you can use to help your child break the habit. Here are three effective strategies to consider:

  • Positive Reinforcement: Reward your child when they don't suck their thumb. This could be in the form of praise, stickers, or small treats. This will encourage them to stop sucking their thumb.
  • Distraction: Encourage your child to engage in other activities that will distract them from thumb sucking. This could be playing with toys, drawing, or reading a book.
  • Talk to Your Child: Communicate with your child about the potential harm caused by thumb sucking. Children are more likely to understand and respond positively when they have a clear understanding of why they should stop.

If none of these strategies seem to work, contact Sasco Pediatric Dentistry. Our pediatric dentists, led by Dr. Michelle, are experienced and well-equipped to handle such cases. We’ll offer the best advice and treatment that will help your child completely stop sucking their thumb. Contact us to schedule your child’s appointment today!

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