Thumb Sucking and Your Child’s Teeth

Babies are born with a reflex to suck any object placed in their mouth. This behaviour helps establish feeding and disappears at around four months. Thumb sucking, however, is not reflexive and is believed to be a self-soothing practice. A Clear Choice  Orthodontist can assess thumb sucking concerns and offer solutions to this common behaviour.

Thumb sucking in early childhood usually causes no long-term ill-effects and most children naturally give-up the habit somewhere between 2-4 years of age. However, if habitual thumb or finger sucking continues past this age it can alter the normal growth of the jaws and cause significant misalignment of the front adult teeth.

Childhood teeth development

Thumb sucking and the development of your child’s teeth. How finger and thumb sucking can affect your baby’s mouth and tips to help your child break the habit.

Common problems orthodontists see that are caused by thumb sucking

Here are the common problems orthodontists see regularly in children who have had this habit:

Protrusive upper front teeth

A simple tooth position problem, where the upper incisor teeth are tipped forward. Occasionally this can lead to the upper jaw and teeth protruding from the face.

Tipped back lower front teeth

The pressure of the thumb forces the lower incisor teeth to tip toward the tongue.

Open bite

The upper and lower front teeth do not meet when the back teeth bite together. The shape of the opening between the upper and lower front teeth may match the child’s finger or thumb exactly.


The formation of the upper jaw is too narrow for the lower jaw, so the upper and lower teeth do not fit together properly. Usually a result of flexing cheek muscles while the child is sucking their thumb.

Tips on how to stop thumb-sucking

If you have thumb sucking concerns, it is important to be mindful when breaking a habit as children often use this as an emotional crutch; we must be sensitive to the psychology behind the habit.

Punishment is not the best approach – instead apply patience, persistence, and encouragement. Rewarding positive behaviour with something like a hug or praise can reinforce their decision to stop the habit. Limit nagging as a child can become defensive.

If all of the above conservative measures prove unsuccessful, various orthodontic appliances may be considered after discussing this with your orthodontist.

Early orthodontic treatment for teeth affected by thumb sucking

Pre-teen treatment may involve the use of a plate or spacers during the first phase of their treatment. This helps to guide the jaw’s growth pattern so that less extensive orthodontic treatment is needed to correct any bite issues during later years.

Their second phase of treatment as a teen may require traditional metal braces or lingual braces to correct extensive bite and jaw alignment problems, as well as straightening crooked teeth.

If you’re concerned about the effects of your child’s thumb sucking habit on their growing smile, then schedule an appointment with your orthodontist to assess their teeth and develop a long-term treatment plan.

Your smile is unique...

…so your treatment will be as well.

Your local Orthodontist is specially trained to recognise the range of factors that contribute to crooked bottom teeth, and they will be able to explain your options and discuss with you what suits you best and what you want.

So click the link below to find your nearest Clear Choice Orthodontist and get ready for your new smile.

all Orthodontists are qualified dentists

they then study for an additional 3 years

including 5,000 hours of practical training

specialists in correcting misaligned teeth and jaws