Thumb Sucking: 3 Oral Health Problems

Thumb Sucking: 3 Oral Health Problems

Though a common and natural habit, thumb sucking is a pet peeve for dentists. Normally, children will stop their thumb sucking habit by age 4, but after age 4, the risks that thumb sucking may bring to oral health become more pronounced. 

The team at My Kidz Dentist are sensitive and experienced professionals who understand that children and adults with thumb sucking habits are self-soothing, but may develop oral health problems as a consequence. Stopping this habit may require some intervention, but stopping this habit can save you from unnecessary suffering later.

Why is my child sucking their thumb?

An estimated 70% to 90% of young children will suck their thumbs. It’s a natural and appropriate way for young children to comfort themselves. Even babies in utero have been observed sucking their thumbs. Children tend to suck their thumbs when they are anxious, worried, hungry, tired, or bored. Some children suck their thumbs to soothe themselves to sleep, and infants may suck their toes, too. 

What can happen if my child doesn’t stop sucking their thumb?

You may be concerned for various reasons if your child is 4 or older and hasn’t dropped the thumb sucking habit. Though your child’s oral health may suffer some conditions, these conditions can be treated. Resolving your child’s thumb sucking before permanent teeth come in, however, is preferable to having to treat oral health issues later. 


Dental malocclusion refers to crooked teeth, or teeth that don’t properly align. Another way to refer to malocclusion is misalignment. Vigorous thumb sucking can be a culprit of malocclusion, as teeth can be moved and molded by the stress of frequent sucking. If your child’s teeth are crooked, your provider at My Kidz Dentist might recommend braces when permanent teeth grow in.


Overbites are a type of malocclusion that result from an underdeveloped jaw, causing the maxilla, the upper jaw, to jut out far past the mandible, or jaw. Overbites, like other malocclusions, can make chewing food and cleaning teeth difficult, but also like other malocclusions, overbites are common, and can be treated. 

Speech issues 

Lisps can develop as a result of thumb sucking. People with lisps speak with soft ‘z’, ‘t’, ‘d’, and ‘s’ sounds, resulting from teeth that have been pushed out as a result of thumb sucking. Lisps can affect your child’s confidence and self-esteem, but a speech pathologist can assist with these issues. 

It’s time for a check-up.

If your child is still sucking their thumb, it’s important to use positive reinforcement and gentle reminders to help your child kick the thumb sucking habit. If you aren’t able to get your child to stop sucking their thumb, your provider at My Kidz Dentist can offer some tips and tricks that can help you protect your child’s oral health. For more help, call us at any of our three locations, or book an appointment with us online.

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