Thumb sucking child dental treatment

Will Thumb Sucking Cause My Child To Need Braces?

Thumb sucking is extremely common in babies and toddlers, with almost half of two and three year olds practicing the habit. 

For children, it is a form of self-soothing. Kids often suck their thumbs when they are in need of comfort, are tired, or are bored. It can even help them fall asleep more easily. 

Even so, the vast majority of children stop sucking their thumbs during childhood. For parents, it can be concerning to see a child continue to suck their thumb year after year, which naturally leads to questions about whether it is detrimental to their dental health. 

Here’s a little more about what thumb sucking can lead to, how dummies compare to thumb sucking, and what you can do about potential dental problems further down the track. 

Does thumb sucking cause orthodontic problems? 


Thumb sucking can cause orthodontic problems, although it doesn’t automatically mean your child will have dental problems.  

Generally speaking, the effects of thumb sucking are worse if the habit persists into when they have their adult, permanent teeth (usually beyond the age of about 6-7 years). If they continue sucking their thumb at this point, it could lead to: 

  • Reduced growth of the lower jaw
  • Bucked teeth (the upper front teeth flared forwards)
  • A constricted upper jaw resulting in crossbites
  • Crowding in the lower front teeth, or a ‘tipping back’ of the lower front teeth
  • An open bite (the front teeth don’t overlap)

As most children stop sucking their thumbs before they get their adult teeth, this habit doesn’t usually cause dental issues. 

However, parents might encourage their children to stop the habit if they are still thumb sucking when they start to lose their baby teeth to avoid potential dental problems. 

Dummies vs thumb sucking 


Many parents offer their babies and toddlers dummies to help soothe them, especially around bedtime or when they are upset. 

When it comes to potentially damaging teeth or oral health, both thumbs and dummies can do damage. 

However, some parents may prefer that their child use a dummy rather than sucking on their thumb. This is because as the child grows, it can be easier to manage how often they use a dummy, as the parent can slowly wean the child off its use and ensure the habit stops before the child gets their adult teeth. 

How braces can help dental problems caused by thumb sucking 


If a child continues to suck their thumb after they get their adult teeth, it may cause those teeth to move out of alignment, or it could worsen teeth that are already out of place. 

If seen early enough, your orthodontist will give you a range of strategies to try to break the habit. These can include wearing a glove or mitten, putting a bandaid on the preferred thumb, using a habit breaking thumb varnish (bitter in taste to deter sucking), or a thumb guard. If all this fails, an orthodontic thumb crib is extremely efficient. 

The longer the habit persists, the worse the effect of the teeth and jaws usually is. In severe cases, a combination of orthodontic treatment and jaw surgery is necessary to achieve a normal bite and jaw position. In most instances, however, braces or clear aligners can bring teeth back into alignment for a straighter, healthier smile. Many children who stopped sucking their thumbs early on often still need orthodontic treatment for the correction of any persisting open bites, crookedness, buck teeth. 

Both braces and aligners achieve great results, although they do so with slightly different methods. Your orthodontist will assess your child’s teeth, face, smile, and bite and advise what the best method(s) might be for them. Braces use brackets attached to the teeth and a special wire to pull the teeth into place. They remain attached to the teeth until they are removed by an orthodontist. 

Aligners are custom-made for the patient’s mouth, and are created as a series that will be worn one after the other to slowly move the teeth into place. They are much less noticeable during wear thanks to their clear design and can be taken out for meals and cleaning. 

If you are concerned about your child’s thumb sucking, you are encouraged to discuss this with an orthodontist so they can do an exam and determine if the habit is creating dental issues. Should thumb sucking push your child’s teeth out of alignment, keep in mind that the earlier the habit stops, the earlier the teeth might spontaneously revert to “normal,” and if they don’t, orthodontic treatment can rectify any issues that occur. 

Contact our friendly team at Thorndon Ortho today to chat through your options, or make an appointment to begin treatment.


Contact Info
Opening hours: