Can My Child’s Thumb-Sucking Habit Impact Their Dental Health? Advice from A Local Top Orthodontist
Posted on 08/16/2023
Infant lying on a blanket

As a top orthodontist in Dayton and surrounding areas (Beavercreek, Englewood) including for pediatrics, it’s not uncommon for us to get questions from parents about their youngest children while their older children are in for a check-up…

“Is my child’s thumb-sucking habit something to be concerned about?”

Don’t worry - we have an answer and additional information for you!

First of all, thumb sucking is very common in babies and young children. Most children give up the habit between the ages of 2 and 4 years, however, there are plenty of children (and some adults) who continue the habit well beyond.

For many kids, thumb-sucking may not cause dental problems, but for others, it can lead to significant changes in their tooth positions and possibly changes in their jaw development.

Therefore, it is prudent to have an orthodontic evaluation to determine if interceptive treatment is recommended.

Most orthodontists agree that if the habit stops by age 6 years before any permanent teeth erupt, there is typically no concern.

In those cases of extended habits, there are three factors to consider that may have an impact on the teeth and (upper) jaw:

  1. Frequency -is the habit only at night, or is it done many times throughout the day, or all night even while sleeping?
  2. Duration – is the habit done for a short time only, such as initially at bed time to help relax and allow the child to fall asleep, or is it done whenever the child is idle including while sleeping?
  3. Type of digit and direction/strength of force - is the thumb just resting in the mouth and there is little sucking that occurs, or are other finger(s) used? Are they oriented in a way that puts pressure on the front teeth and anterior portion of the upper jaw?

Stopping a digit habit can be difficult and time consuming if the child does not have a strong desire to stop.

But, at O’Brien Orthodontics as one of the best orthodontic practices in the area, we’re used to seeing whole families come to us for treatment over time. We can discuss a variety of approaches to help you and your child navigate a path that is not only better-suited for them and their long-term dental health, but will ease your anxiety along the way.