Thumb Sucking – What Problems Can It Cause?


Thumb sucking is a common behaviour amongst infants, and it is a natural action which brings with it a sense of comfort and security. Most children grow out of this behaviour between the ages of two and four. However, if thumb sucking persists beyond the age of four, this could negatively impact your child’s teeth, jaw and facial development. In this blog post, Specialist Kids Dentist will be sharing some potential side effects caused by prolonged thumb sucking.

Common Problems Caused by Thumb Sucking


  • Open Bite


Thumb sucking can contribute to dental malocclusion, which is a term used to describe any abnormal alignment of the upper and lower teeth. One of the more common types of malocclusion is an open bite, where the upper and lower front teeth face outward and there is a gap between them


  • Overbite


In cases where only the upper front teeth face outward and cover the lower teeth, this is referred to as an overbite. This can adversely affect the development of the face and smile, and in order to correct an overbite orthodontic treatment may be required. 


  • Speech Impediment


Thumb sucking can adversely affect the development of your child’s teeth, jaw and palate. This in turn can create speech impediments and difficulty when eating. Thumb sucking can push teeth out of position, which can contribute to the development of an interdental lisp. 


  • Skin Issues


Thumb sucking can lead to dry, flaky skin that is prone to cracking and bleeding. This creates an infection risk for your child’s hands and fingers, and the moisture and repetitive sucking action could also cause the thumbnail to become ingrown or peel. 

Discouraging Thumb Sucking – Tips for Parents

Whilst thumb sucking in the infant years is normal, it should be discouraged as much as possible between the ages of 2 and 4. Persistent thumb sucking could lead to the development of the above conditions, and it may also affect your child’s social development during preschool or kindergarten. 

Children are prone to thumb sucking when they are stressed or bored, so you may wish to try some of the following to help your child stop the habit.


  • Offer a reward or positive praise when your child is attempting to stop the habit
  • Provide a range of toys or other form of entertainment to distract your child, particularly on long car journeys
  • Have your child wear gloves or thumb guards during sleep
  • Mark your child’s progress on a calendar for each day they abstain from sucking their thumb
  • Fixed/ glued on habit reminders



Worried about your child’s thumb sucking? Visit Specialist Kids Dentist Today

Continued thumb sucking can cause changes to the palate and teeth alignment which can only be corrected through orthodontic treatment. If you are worried about your child’s thumb sucking and would like some professional advice from a dentist, please don’t hesitate to book an appointment at Specialist Kids Dentist today. Call now on 02 9600 6848. We look forward to seeing you soon.