Thumb sucking is one of the most common acts your child may be involved in their early years.

If you are reading this, it is probably because you are a concerned parent.

You want your child to be rid of this habit which some people assume to be harmful.

However let me burst the bubble- it is quite normal and safe.

the impact of thumb sucking

Thumb sucking comes as part of the early experiences a child has. Whether it is putting objects and fingers in their mouths.

It is what we call getting curious about things around you.

While this behavior stops naturally as quickly as it sets in, in some cases that does not happen. And children may actually be leading on with it due to certain levels of stress and anxiety.

It is what brings a soothing sensation. So certain children hold onto it.

In this article, we will be talking in detail about the different aspects relating to thumb sucking, reasons, effects on the mouth, duration and ways you can stop the habit.

So let’s start:

Is Thumb Sucking Damaging to Teeth?

How thumb sucking damages the teeth?

Let’s break the discussion with clearing the air on how thumb sucking affects your oral health.

So if your child is just passively holding the thumb to inside the mouth, there is no harm done. The saliva does not pose any such threats to your oral health.

However when it comes to actively involved in thumb sucking, it can pose various concerns within the mouth.

This is usually to the baby teeth of your child. But turns out, your permanent teeth will be fine in the process though.

Yet again if your child had moved into sucking his/her teeth when the permanent teeth have kicked in, this persistent and very vigorous act of thumb sucking can cause you to have a misalignment of the jaw line.

This will heavily impact the shape and the roof of the mouth.

Also if this habit is adapted vigorously, and is done constantly, chances are your children will suffer from and have a strong exposure to dirt and bacteria.

These are extremely harmful matters that you may want to steer clear of.

But here’s something interesting.

A recent study had pointed out how children who suck their thumbs are also gaining certain benefits. Among these are the ability to combat and protect from allergic reactions from dust and bed bugs.

So this is where the confusion lies a little, not allowing you to understand clearly on how can the situation worked out.

But now let’s move onto what are some of the long-term effects associating to the habit of thumb sucking:

Long-Term Effects Of Thumb Sucking

overbite is an effect of thumb sucking

So we have already talked about how thumb sucking is responsible for the various ways in which you teeth and mouth will get effected.

Now in this scenario, we are specifically talking about the habit of heavy and vigorous thumb sucking action.

A few major ways it impacts your mouth include:

  • You will notice an overbite. This basically means that the front teeth are coming out from the jaw and the mouth.
  • Bottom teeth can be seen tipping in the inward state.
  • Open bite is also common. concern. It is when your teeth on the top and those in the bottom don’t come together and meet properly when you close your mouth.
  •  Sometimes adapting this habit in the long run causes for your jaw line’s shape to change.
  • This also leads to harmful impact on the way the teeth are aligning.
  • You will also suffer from speech concerns.
  • There is also the concern of sensitivity of the mouth’s roof. This is also heavily impacted in the process and become a cause for concern.

However it is important to point out that many of these issues can be well-taken care of in time and can be resolved if taken in control on time.

But this does not count and include those cases in which children are continuously sucking their thumbs.

For them having this problem means that they are at higher and increased risks of suffering from certain side effects.

Moving on let’s now talk on how to curb the problem before it becomes bigger to manage.

How to Combat Issues with Teeth from Thumb Sucking

listen to the professional advice

While normal thumb sucking isn’t a reason to worry, it can lead to major concerns if not controlled in a timely manner.

So one of the best ways to control them is to keep on visiting the dentist regularly.

From the early years, it is best to see the dentist in a regular pattern so that they can notice if the child’s front teeth are actually coming out or if the child is facing problems when they try to bite.

A dentist will note down and point out any problems you may be suffering from.

Did you know that a child’s permanent teeth only start to come out when they are 6 years old?

But having a vigorous habit of thumb sucking can actually set the problems way sooner than that.

So it is best that you keep a lookout and see what are the underlying concerns which need quick addressing to avoid more problems in the future.

When is Thumb Sucking Normal and Not Harmful?

This is another important concern that many parents may have that needs proper addressing.

It is perfectly normal for a child to continue to suck their thumb till the age of 4. But as soon as they are way past that age and you are concerned as to why are they not dropping this habit, it is best to take the advice of your specialist to know what can be doane.

There are certain treatments which can be done and some ideas to allow a child to drop this habit completely.

In some cases, dentists can also advise for you to not push your child to end this habit and let them come out of it on their own.

But if your child is involved in heavy thumb sucking, it is best that you completely have it eradicated from the system.

This is because if you don’t, there is a good chance that your child’s teeth are not aligned properly and the permanent teeth will be misshaped. You will then need to make use of teeth retainers.

So now I want to share some simple and effective ways in which you can stop your child from thumb sucking.

Ways to Combat Thumb Sucking

Firstly you need to know no two children will be sucking thumbs in the same way. They can differ.

While some do so when they are extremely bored, others will be having this habit when they are feeling anxious or hungry.

In certain cases they are doing so because of anxiety issues. In such cases it is best if you can involve them in other ways to make use of their hands.

Distract them to use their hands for drawing or playing with blocks.

Realizing the cause helps to create a better distraction.

Adapting Positive Reinforcement

reward good behavior

This basically means a way to make use of a good reward mechanism to stop your child from this habit.

You can do so by creating a sticker chart and encouraging them to not adapt the habit and win praises.

Also you can surprise your little one. by ensuring simple rewards that give them a boost to change for the better.

Using Reminders

This may seem frustrating but in the start you should try to make use of constant reminders all the time.

It is very helpful to let them know that time and again that this habit is not good.

There is no harm in sending reminders again and again.

Orthodontic Device & Thumb Shields

This means you can make use of orthodontic devices which are great distractions from this habit. Your dentist can help you find the kind of device which works best for you.

Also did you know that there are various kinds of plastic as well as fabric thumb guards which can help your child.

The shields can be worn at all times or you can have them worn only when you sense your child is about to suck thumbs.

If you don’t have a shield, you can also cover your child’s thumb by making use of a glove or mitten.


ensure you understand thumb sucking and its effects

Thumb sucking is a very natural process. It is something that kicks in right after birth.

Many children will continue to do so even after the age of 2 and can continue way above the age of 4 years.

While in some cases the condition can finish of its own and is actually considered helpful. But in some cases, when your child is involved in doing it very vigorously, it can cause major concerns as well. This includes damages that it may cause to your teeth.

Whatever the case, thumb sucking is different for every child. Learn to identify what are the major impacts on your child’s life. And one of the best ways to manage your child’s thumb sucking is by involving a dentist to know the professional way of handling it.