Effects Of Thumb Sucking – Dental Health

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When a baby is born, he/she develops many innate reflexes, including the sucking reflex. They use it to satisfy their hunger and there are a large number of toys that babies can suck on to. As the child grows up, he/she finds sucking on his/her thumb very satisfying and is also considered normal up to the age of 2.


While many kids stop this habit between 2 to 4 years of age, doing so beyond the age of 4 years can have many negative effects on the child. Before we proceed to learn more about thumb sucking effects, it is important to understand why kids suck on their thumbs.

What is Thumb Sucking?

Thumb sucking, quite literally, is sucking on one’s thumb. As mentioned earlier on, babies have a natural tendency to do so. Very young children tend to explore the world around them by putting everything in their mouth. The urge to suck on to something also helps them feed until they are able to eat solid foods.


Though not much is usually spoken about the thumb sucking effects when a child is very young, thumb-sucking for a prolonged period of time is a matter of concern.


In ideal cases, the urge to put something in their mouth reduces in babies as they turn 6-7 months old. But, it is common to see kids suck on their thumb when they are sleepy, tired, hungry, or even tired. Thumb sucking effects do not begin to show at this stage and in most cases, children stop the action by themselves as they grow older.


So, what thumb sucking effects are we talking about then? Well, if a child continues his/her thumb-sucking habit well after he/she has turned 4 years, it can lead to many dental and aesthetic issues for the child.

What are the Side-Effects of Thumb Sucking?

Thumb sucking effects do not directly harm or damage the teeth but they can cause problems in a child’s mouth, teeth alignment, and even their facial development and appearance.


When thumb sucking effects are seen on your child’s baby teeth alignment, discontinuing the habit helps correct the teeth alignment when the permanent teeth erupt.

thumb sucking effect

For all those of you worried about thumb sucking effects on your child’s teeth, here’s a list of what you need to prevent!

  1. Open Bite- Among the thumb sucking effects on teeth alignment, this is the most common side effect. An open bite is a condition wherein the upper front teeth fail to overlap the lower front teeth. The teeth, in this case, are often protruded and your child’s mouth fails to close completely.This gives rise to other problems such as redness of gums, poor aesthetics, improper growth of jaws, and improper functioning of the front teeth.
  2. Overbite- Another one of the many thumb sucking effects is an overbite. In normal cases, the upper teeth overlap the lower ones by 1-2 mm. However, in case of a prolonged thumb sucking habit, there can be an excessive overlap of the upper teeth cover the lower teeth. This condition is called an overbite.
    Just like in open bite, an overbite can hamper the appearance of your child’s face and his/her smile. Most kids with this form of malaligned teeth tend to become conscious about their smile or develop low self-confidence.
    Thumb sucking effects on your child’s teeth alignment are more than just open and overbite.
  3. Skin Problems- If you thought that thumb sucking effects are restricted to your child’s dentition and appearance, you are mistaken. Prolonged thumb sucking can give rise to skin problems on your child’s thumb as well.
    Children who prolong their thumb-sucking habit for long tend to develop skin problems on their favourite thumb. Since the thumb is always moist, it is more prone to injury, cracking, bleeding and subsequent infections.
  4. Speech Impediment- A very critical thumb sucking effect is the speech impediment that kids can develop. The improper alignment of teeth, jaws and the palate affect how a child learns to speak and pronounce certain syllables and consonant sounds like ‘f’, ‘s’, ‘d’, ‘t’. This habit can also result in the development of a lisp.
    The failure to stop thumb sucking habit in time can result in the child being unable to pronounce certain sounds and words properly. Such kids, as they grow up, develop poor self-confidence, feel isolated from others and are often ridiculed.
    In order to correct such thumb sucking effects, orthodontic treatment needs to be done to align the teeth properly and allow the child to speak properly.
  5. Social Issues- Thumb sucking effects can also hamper your child’s behaviour and can create social issues if it is not stopped in time. Children who suck their thumb public are ridiculed by their friends and classmates if it continues longer. In many children, thumb sucking is a sign of boredom and they often do not realise that they are doing it subconsciously.
    Apart from this, constantly sucking their thumb can bruise your child’s lips leading to further aesthetic issues.

How Do You Get Your Child to Stop the Habit?

Many of you by now must be wondering how to how to stop your child’s habit. Well, if your child is between 2-4 years of age and you wish to wean them off this habit, you can use one of the following tips:-

  • Teach them why they shouldn’t suck on their thumb
  • Enquire about their source of stress that may be causing them to find solace in sucking their thumb
  • Never force or reprimand your child when they begin sucking their thumb. Gently and subtly distract them with a toy or activity

If your child tends to suck them thumb while going to sleep, you can cover their hand with a sock which prevents them from the activity. You can also consult with your dentist to provide a bitter-tasting medication to be applied to your child’s thumb to stop them from sucking on to it.


If you have any queries or concerns about the side effects of thumb sucking or long term effects of thumb sucking, feel free to contact us today! Our team of dental experts at Sabka Dentist clinics will help you!

Expert opinion

  • Dr. Jena Shah Dental Director of Sabka dentist says “Some thumb sucking effects include malalignment problems like open bite, overbite, speech problems, skin issues, aesthetic problems and social issues.”
  • Dr. Rupali Gujar Dental Director of Sabka dentist says “Thumb sucking habit can be stopped by using some simple tips and any teeth alignment problem can be corrected using orthodontics.”


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