Is Thumb Sucking Damaging My Child’s Teeth?

There are two important factors that indicate whether thumb sucking (or pacifier use) will damage teeth: age and intensity. Most dentists agree that the habit won’t harm baby teeth, but it should be addressed by the time that permanent teeth arrive, which is around age 6.

Once the baby teeth are gone, the potential damage has a greater likelihood of becoming permanent or requiring the attention of an orthodontist. This damage could include abnormal alignment of teeth, as well as damage to the structure of the roof of the mouth. Perhaps most noticeable are buck teeth, which result when the pressure of the thumb pushes the top teeth out and away from each other. The changes in dentition could also cause speech problems, such as a lisp. It’s possible that malocclusions will take care of themselves once the child stops sucking his or her thumb, but movement of the teeth will probably involve dental work.

The intensity of thumb sucking will affect the extent of the damage. If a child forcefully sucks his or her thumb from day one, then the habit could impact the shape of the mouth and the position of the teeth before permanent teeth even come in. On the other hand, if a child places a thumb in his or her mouth only occasionally, with little to no sucking, then it’s less likely to cause a permanent problem. Children may continue to indulge in this action at times of exhaustion or boredom.  

If you have more questions, please contact our office and we will be happy to assist you. 

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