Thumbsucking is a common habit amongst babies and toddlers, but, when this habit continues into childhood it can cause a variety of dental issues.
Most children will stop sucking their thumb between ages 2 and 4, if not, then by the time their adult teeth are ready to erupt. If your child continues to suck their thumb beyond this point, then they may do permanent damage that could affect the shape of your child’s mouth and teeth as they age.
While thumbsucking can cause damage to the teeth, children who place their thumb in their mouth passively are at a lower risk of developing dental issues than children who actively suck their thumbs. Prolonged or excessive thumbsucking can affect the development of your child’s teeth by causing crowded, crooked, or overbite issues with the adult bite. Other issues include misaligned jaw, changes in the structure of the roof of the mouth, and speech development issues.
Thumbsucking comes naturally to children and can be a calming and soothing gesture that helps them to fall asleep. Thumbsucking in babies is a way that they can self-calm when they are cranky or want comfort. Some babies will even suck their thumb when they are still in the womb.
Unfortunately, pacifiers have the same effect as thumbsucking. However, on the flip-side, pacifier use is an easy habit to break. You can take pacifiers away from your baby, but you can’t take away a baby’s thumb.