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Will Thumbsucking Affect Teeth Alignment?

Curly-haired brunette boy in a red shirt sucks his thumb

If your child sucks their thumb you may be concerned about what this means for their future oral health. Here, we’ll address whether thumbsucking can affect the alignment of your child’s teeth.

Why Kids Suck Their Thumb

First, let’s discuss why children suck their thumb. Babies and young children have a natural instinct to suck on something because it relaxes and calms them, and they often do it to self-soothe as they fall asleep. Most children stop sucking their thumb around age three, though the habit can be more difficult to break for some children. If kids continue sucking their thumb beyond age three to four, it may signal that they are experiencing some kind of chronic emotional distress.

Negative Effects of Thumbsucking

Thumbsucking past toddlerhood can cause a number of issues, and the more aggressively your child sucks their thumb, the more severe the effects. For example, the roof of your child’s mouth can become irritated and sensitive, they could develop a lisp or speech delay, and they may experience chronic middle-ear infections. Additionally, prolonged thumbsucking can contribute to alignment issues with their future adult teeth. Whether their adult teeth have begun to erupt or if they only have baby teeth, the unusual forces of thumbsucking can push and pull your child’s teeth out of alignment. Poorly aligned teeth are more difficult to keep clean and healthy, and issues like an overbite or overjet will require orthodontic treatment to make eating easier.

Tips to Help Your Child Stop Thumbsucking

Although it can be tough to encourage your child to stop sucking their thumb, it’s important to do if they are three years old or older. Praise them for not sucking their thumb, using positive reinforcement to help make them feel good about not sucking their thumb. If you believe your child only sucks their thumb when they are upset or uncomfortable, address the issue that is making your child unhappy and help them find other ways to self-soothe, like with a soft blanket, stuffed animal, or special song.

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If you have any other questions about your child’s oral health, contact us today.

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