The Dangers Of Thumb Sucking For Children

Thumb Sucking

A sucking action, like breastfeeding, is a reflex mammals develop to get nutrients in the early stage of life. It’s something that is perfectly acceptable for infants who are under the age of five. Children between the ages of two and four are the most common age groups for thumb sucking.

But it’s best to try and get them out of the habit by the age of five. By this age, their jaw starts to develop and prolonged thumb sucking could mean it’ll cause their permanent teeth to be misaligned.

In dentistry, we call this dental malocclusion. This usually shows in the form of various problems.

Increased overjet
This is when the upper front teeth stick out by around two-to-three millimetres over the bottom teeth.

Anterior open bite
This occurs when the upper front teeth are not in contact with the lower front teeth, when the jaw is closed.

Lip incompetence
When the mouth doesn’t fully close at rest, this is known as lip incompetence. It can result in changes to the facial development and tooth alignment.

Some other potential problems can be the narrowing of the maxillary arch – which is when the upper jaw narrows – and the widening of the mandibular arch, which is when the lower jaw narrows.

How to Stop Thumb Sucking
Although children should normally grow out of the habit of thumb sucking, it shouldn’t be something to worry too much about! Sometimes, the best way is just to ignore them – they may figure out for themselves that it isn’t acceptable. You should try to positively reinforce that it isn’t a good habit. Being critical or negative could cause stress and anxiety and cause them to do it more.


Unsure about your dental health? Find your nearest Synergy Dental Clinic to book an appointment.

A version of this blog post first appeared in The Bolton News  in February 2017. 

Thumb Sucking

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