Many children begin sucking behaviors to calm themselves starting at a young age. In fact,  many parents rely on pacifiers, toys, and other items that may encourage emotional regulation in children. As they get older, they may develop the habit of thumb sucking. There are a few negative side effects if the habit continues past age four. Here are a few outcomes of thumb sucking.

  1. Open Bite- The most severe side effect is the types of dental malocclusion. Malocclusion is a categorical term that describes misalignment of a tooth that is visible when the mouth is closed. The most common malocclusions caused by thumb sucking are over-bite and open-bite. Open bite occurs when the top and bottom from teeth become directed outward. The front teeth do not touch causing the mouth not to close completely. Open bites usually require orthodontic treatment.
  2. Over Bite- Just like an open bite, over bite occurs when teeth become directed outward. The misalignment is confined to the upper front teeth. The top teeth cover the bottom when your child's mouth is closed. It can affect the shape of the face, smile, and often times confidence. Headgear or other orthodontic treatments can help reposition alignment of bite.
  3. Skin Problems- Children who suck their thumb for years may develop serious and uncomfortable skin problems on their thumb. The skin becomes more prone to injuries when exposed to moisture of the mouth and can cause ingrowth and peeling. Consider bandaging, or using a medical finger glove to help reduce the discomfort.
  4. Speech Impediment- Thumb sucking affects the development of the jaw, palate, teeth, and can change the way your child eats and speaks. It can cause lisping, speech impediments, including an inability to pronounce hard sounds such as “T' and “D”


If you are concerned about your child's habit to suck their thumb call your dentist! It is very important to help break the habit as soon as possible before it turns into a more serious issue!

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