Infants and Thumb Sucking: Can it Cause Dental Issues?

July 17, 2019

Thumb sucking is a natural reflex for babies. Often seen during newborn stages and early development, thumb sucking is a considered a normal coping mechanism as it is soothing and provides comfort.


Does thumb sucking cause dental problems?

After permanent teeth come in – yes, it can. Problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth can occur. Sometimes, it can change the roof of the mouth as well. Usually, parents do not have to worry about this too much as children mostly stop thumb sucking between the ages of two and four years old.


Okay, but what if they don’t stop?

If your child doesn’t stop thumb sucking by the time permanent front teeth are ready to erupt (the American Dental Association recommends by the age of 4) then it may be time to intervene. But don’t fret, there are solutions to help your child quit sucking their thumb as they approach this age.


Tips for Discouraging Thumb Sucking

  • Communicate and involve your child by choosing a plan together to stop thumb sucking.
  • Praise and your child (reward charts can be a great tool to monitor progress).
  • Focus on what is causing your child’s anxiety and comfort them during times they would usually suck their thumb.
  • Keep in mind that criticism (instead positive reinforcement) will usually make the problem worse as it adds to anxiety.
  • Purchase products that can discourage thumb sucking (usually to be placed on the thumb or fingers).
  • Visit your child’s dentist, as they can educate and encourage both of you along the way.


As always, if you notice changes in your child’s baby teeth, or are concerned about your child’s thumb sucking you should speak with their dentist. It’s important to mention that there are instances when aggressive thumb sucking can cause problems in baby teeth.

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