The Long Term Effects of Thumb Sucking

Thumb sucking is a normal and soothing habit for babies and toddlers. While most children grow out of this habit during their toddler years, some parents are faced with the reality that their elementary-aged child is still sucking their thumb. Usually, the reason why children tend to continue thumb sucking is out of habit due to hunger, boredom or stress. At this point, it’s important to try to stop the habit before it leads to any permanent damage to your child’s permanent teeth. Thumb sucking is usually harmful if it persists beyond the ages of 5-6 years.

What long-term impacts is your child at risk for if they continue sucking their thumb?

  • Teeth being pushed around, which might cause an overbite or an underbite to form. Thumb sucking has the potential to create an overbite, underbite, or an open bite due to shifting teeth from the presence of the thumb being in the mouth.
  • A lisp being built because constant thumb sucking can affect the jaw bone positioning. This is because continuous thumb sucking can affect the development of your child’s jaw, leading to a problem that could even require surgery to fix.
  • Germs from your thumb and surrounding areas affecting your body. Children who suck their thumbs well into and beyond their toddler years are at higher risk for infections due to continuing exposing the mouth to bacteria. These children are typically introduced to antibiotics earlier than children who cease the thumb sucking habit.

Approximately 30% of children in pre-school continue to suck their thumbs. Here are some helpful tips on how you can stop your child from sucking their thumbs at this point:

  1. Don’t nag or punish your child for sucking their thumbs as it may create stress and a reason to suck their thumbs more.
  2. Be gentle when encouraging your child not to suck their thumb. They should be old enough to understand the reasons why this habit is harmful. You can also try distracting them when they begin to suck their thumb to help break the habit.
  3. Explain to them the long term effects of such a habit and what that might entail.

If you notice any alternations to your child’s teeth due to their thumb sucking, visit one of our locations! We’d be happy to help you and answer any questions you may have.

Scroll to Top