Thumb sucking is actually a natural habit for young children. Approximately 90% of children between 2 to 3 years of age suck their thumbs. Thumb sucking only begins to affect a child once they reach 6 to 7 years of age because that’s when their permanent teeth start to come in. After the permanent teeth come in, thumb sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth.

Side Effects of Thumb Sucking

Because of the way the thumb is forced against the inside of the upper front teeth, thumb sucking can cause several structural problems such as flaring the teeth outward. It can also cause an open bite, which is when the upper and lower teeth don’t make contact when the jaws are closed. This dental problem makes the simple act of eating/tearing foods like sandwiches, pizza, etc. challenging. While these types of problems typically correct themselves if the child stops sucking their thumb early on, the longer they continue the habit, the more likely it is that they’ll require orthodontic treatment to address their bite problems. Respiratory and speech issues are also side effects of thumb sucking. Children with a prolonged thumb sucking habit may end up with a lisp, *thrust* their tongue out when they talk and have trouble saying Ts and Ds.

Addressing Thumb Sucking

If the child doesn’t stop sucking their thumb, orthodontic help might be required to correct the positioning of the teeth and align the jaws. If an open bite problem isn’t resolved while the child is growing, jaw surgery may be necessary. The best thing to do if prolonged thumb sucking is a problem is to schedule an appointment with an orthodontist to have them help break your child’s thumb sucking habit. Treatment could vary from recommending products that taste bad (a thumb sucking/nail biting liquid deterrent) to fitting a palatal appliance that can keep the thumb from pushing on their teeth.

If you’re concerned about the effects that thumb sucking may be having on your child’s teeth, schedule a consultation with E&S Orthodontics today.

Ousama El-Hillal

Ousama El-Hillal, referred to as Dr. O by patients, staff and friends is an Orthodontist at E&S Orthodontics. He founded E&S Orthodontics with Dr. Saavedra in 2004. He is driven to create Wide Beautiful Smiles Without Extractions.


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