March 15, 2019

How Thumb Sucking Affects Teeth Alignment

There’s a saying that goes, “There is always a reason to smile. So find it”.

Thumb sucking in children is a very common habit. Babies have a strong sucking reflex, which helps them nurse and receive nutrients. In between feedings, however, they tend to put their fingers and toes in their mouths.

As babies get older, they find thumb sucking soothing, so they continue the habit when they’re anxious or need to go to sleep. This activity can continue well into childhood, with even elementary school children still sucking their thumbs.

Is this habit something you should be concerned about? How will it affect teeth alignment as your children grow? Here’s what you need to know.

It’s Not a Concern Until Age 5 or Older

While most children stop sucking their thumb between ages 2 – 4, it’s not a concern for oral health unless it continues to age five our beyond.

Once a child is five, six, and older, thumb-sucking can cause distortions to the youngster’s developing mouth, face, palate, and speech. This is what can cause problems with future teeth alignment.

If you have an older child who still engages in this habit, it’s important to pay attention to when and why they suck their thumb. If it’s a response to stress or uncertainty, you can provide alternatives that will help them cope in other ways.

What Alignment Issues Can Happen?

There are a variety of alignment problems that can happen when a youngster sucks their thumb too long.

An anterior open bit can occur. This is when the child closes their teeth and their molars come together but their front teeth don’t. Another possibility is a deep overbite where the top teeth significantly hang over the bottom.

Your child can also develop a crossbite, where the front teeth overbite but the molars underbite. This situation creates misalignment throughout the mouth.

As a result, children who suck their thumb past age five can have significant problems with teeth alignment and are much more likely to need braces.

Are There Other Issues From Thumb Sucking?

Because thumb sucking affects the alignment of the jaw and mouth, there are other issues you might see if your child doesn’t stop sucking their thumb by age five.

They may develop a lisp because of incorrect positioning of the jaw. The roof of the mouth can also be damaged. Sometimes the roof of the mouth is altered in shape or becomes sensitive.

Finally, there’s a danger from germs. As you know, children touch a lot of things out of simple curiosity. If a curious child then sucks their thumb, they are essentially eating whatever they just touched. This can cause illness and infection.

As you can see, teeth alignment is one issue, but it’s not the only one.

Address Teeth Alignment Today

Hopefully, you can use positive reinforcement and alternate coping options to stop thumb sucking before it does damage. However, if you or your child already has problems with teeth alignment, we can help.

There are a variety of options and getting alignment corrected is easier than ever. From traditional braces to Invisalign, we can help with the solutions you need. Contact us for an appointment today!

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2924 Kavanaugh Blvd
Little Rock, Arkansas