Is Thumb Sucking Bad for Babies and Kids?

Thumb sucking is a quite common habit in babies and young children. However, many parents and caregivers worry that their children may face consequences from thumb sucking, such as “buck teeth.”

While this fear isn’t completely unfounded, many children who suck their thumbs do so without consequence.

Why Does Thumb Sucking Occur?

There are many reasons babies and young children tend to suck their thumbs and other fingers. First of all, babies naturally know to suck for nourishment. Sucking is also a comfort mechanism, so children may do so when they feel frightened, nervous, or insecure. In addition, thumb sucking can serve as a source of entertainment for a baby or young child.

Will Thumb Sucking Cause Dental Problems?

The good news is, thumb sucking is very normal and in many cases stops on its own around the time the child enters kindergarten. Thumb sucking usually only becomes problematic if it is allowed to persist.

  • Children past age six who are still avid thumb suckers, or young children who suck their thumbs forcefully, could potentially face dental problems. The pressure of the thumb behind the front teeth can cause misalignment, which may require orthodontic treatment to correct. Children who suck their thumb may also face speech difficulties.
  • In addition to potentially causing dental problems, thumb sucking can cause infections and sore, irritated skin. Of course, it also introduces bacteria into your child’s mouth, which can lead to him or her getting sick.
  • Children who suck their thumbs into the grade school years could face taunting from their peers. Once your child enters school, it is probably best to put a stop to the habit.
In short, there’s no need to worry if your baby or young child has a habit of sucking his or her thumb. However, if the habit persists, there are treatments available to help avoid any potential dental problems, such as oral appliances that teach children not to suck their thumbs and prevent them from putting pressure on their teeth.

Bringing your child to the pediatric dentist on a regular basis will help monitor the situation, as well!