Will thumb sucking cause my child’s teeth to be crooked?

Will thumb sucking cause my child’s teeth to be crooked?

Thumb sucking in an infant is completely natural and normal. It’s an instinct we all have as babies and it helps with feeding. This sucking instinct usually starts to fade at around the age of 4 months. After 4 months the habit of thumb sucking sometimes may persist, usually as a self-soothing technique. This is nothing to worry about as most kids grow out of this habit with no harm done. But if thumb sucking persists it could potentially start to affect the development of the dentition and growth of the jaws.

How does thumb sucking affect the teeth and jaw?

A basic principle of orthodontic treatment is to place gentle but consistent pressure on the teeth to get them to move to a new position. Thumb sucking applies similar pressure, and if that pressure is consistent enough, the teeth may move into an undesirable position.

Typically the front teeth will start to tilt forward, and in severe cases, even the jaw position and shape may be affected. The upper teeth and jaw may protrude forward with the face lengthening and the lower teeth being pushed backward.

This can lead to an altered bite which is complicated to correct.

How to get my child to stop sucking his or her thumb?

A child will often suck their thumb as a form of self-soothing or as an emotional crutch. For that reason we need to look carefully at the underlying motivation for thumb sucking and address that first. It is not a good idea to simply enforce a no thumb sucking rule as this could lead to deeper emotional and psychological issues.

Here is great article by an expert paediatrician on how to help your child to stop sucking their thumb.

The role of your orthodontist in managing thumb sucking and the affects.

If you are unsure if your child’s thumb sucking habit is a cause for concern, it is good idea to book an appointment with an orthodontist in your area. They will be able to determine if there have been teeth or jaw changes, or if continued thumb sucking is a cause for concern.

If there have been changes, a simple, early orthodontic intervention such as plate, may often be used to correct any issues. This can simplify the need for further treatment later in life.

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