Thumb Sucking and Permanent Damage to Children’s Teeth

Little-cute-baby-sleeping-sucking-thumbThumb sucking is often viewed as a natural habit for children. Sucking on fingers, thumbs, pacifiers or any other objects can, in early months of a baby’s life, make a child feel happy and secure. It can help a child learn more about their world. Children also suck to soothe themselves and/or to fall asleep. However, if this behaviour continues, it can have adverse results for your child’s teeth/mouth development.

How Thumb-sucking Affects your Child’s Teeth

Thumb Sucking and Permanent Damage to Children's Teeth

Once a child’s permanent teeth develop, thumb sucking can damage the way his or her mouth grows and alter the roof of their mouth. The extent or kind of damage caused by thumb-sucking is based on the power your child uses to suck, which differs from child to child. If a child uses thumb sucking as a security tool, they are likely not sucking vigorously on their thumb. When a child thumb-sucks because they are upset, it is usually an aggressive suck. The damage to teeth, gums, and jaws varies with both the time and intensity of thumb-sucking habit.

When Does It Stop

Keep Your Gums Healthy and They Will Preserve Your Teeth

Most children stop thumb-sucking when they reach the age of two to four (or when permanent teeth start to form). Usually, the incentive to stop is peer perceptions. Once the child starts to socialize with their peers, the thumb-sucking habits wanes. If not, it is vital to help your child quit sucking their thumb as early as possible. Children who often suck their thumb — especially after their permanent teeth start to develop — will push teeth into crooked positions and potentially create an underbite or overbite, which later requires braces or other more aggressive orthodontic treatment.

Help your Child Stop Thumbsucking


  • Shower praise on your child for staying clear of the sucking habit.
  • Explain to your child why it is important not to thumbsuck and think of ways to reward him/her. Treats are a good idea as long as they aren’t tooth-harming sweets.
  • Get stickers for your child. Help them participate in distracting activities (sports, dance, etc.) that can help keep them occupied.
  • Focus on addressing any causes for your child’s anxiety and provide comfort to him or her.
  • David Decides About Thumbsucking: A Guide for Parents” is a good refrence.

For more information on children’s oral health services contact Cosmo Dental Centre at (519) 659-2767. We want to help you and your children avoid costly (and potentially painful) procedures in the future.

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