How Much Damage Can Thumb Sucking Cause? - Specialist Orthodontic Group : Specialist Orthodontic Group
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How Much Damage Can Thumb Sucking Cause?

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It’s common for babies and small children to suck their thumb. This habit can provide comfort, especially at night.

However, over the last decade this simple habit has become very controversial. Studies have shown that some kinds of thumb sucking can result in damage to the developing teeth and jaw.

What kind of dental damage can thumb sucking cause?

In some cases, thumb sucking can significantly affect the teeth, jawbone and the roof of the mouth. The repetitive action of the habit can result in these parts of the mouth being pulled out of shape. Over time, this can cause problems such as:

  • Sensitivity on the roof of the mouth
  • Speech problems such as lisps due to the shape of the jaw being affected
  • Poor jaw alignment
  • An overbite
  • An open bite
  • The back teeth tipping inwards

Is it ever okay for a child to suck their thumb?

This is a very tricky question to answer. Some sources maintain that all thumb sucking should be discouraged, while others state that some kinds have far less of a risk of long term damage.

Generally speaking, the more vigorous and regular the thumb sucking, the more likely that problems may occur with tooth and jaw development. If your child just places their thumb in their mouth, this is unlikely to have the same effect.

It’s also important to consider when the thumb sucking is taking place. An infant is unlikely to cause any long term tooth damage as their adult teeth have not yet come in.

The issue here is that sometimes a thumb sucking habit in the early years can become so entrenched that the child will continue to suck their thumb long after their adult teeth have come in.

Is there any way to treat this damage?

If you or your child have teeth or jaw alignment issues due to thumb sucking, there are ways for your orthodontist to help. A fixed or removable brace will help to gradually move your teeth back into a more favourable alignment.

If you’d like to talk to us about alignment or bite issues related to thumb sucking, please get in touch with your local practice.