Thumb-Sucking in Children: Causes and Solutions

February 23rd, 2022 by

Thumb-Sucking in Children: Causes and Solutions

Thumb-sucking is a common habit in a lot of children that are seemingly harmless. Thumb-sucking soothes children and helps them to relax when they feel stressed. However, it can affect their oral health negatively if it becomes a prolonged habit. This article will highlight five ways in which thumb-sucking can be detrimental to your child’s oral health.

Harmful Effects: Thumb-sucking on Oral Health

Thumb-sucking can have long-lasting negative effects on your child’s oral health if it is not checked. Below are four ways in which this habit affects your child’s oral health.

  • Protruding Front Teeth: One of the negative effects of thumb-sucking on your child’s oral health is an overbite. An overbite refers to protruding front teeth. Protruding front teeth is caused by the pressure applied on the upper gum (where the incisors come out from) when sucking the thumb. The constant pressure on this part of the gum pushes the front teeth forward when they are formed. This action causes the child to have protruding front teeth or overbite. Overbite typically affects the shape of a child’s smile as well as face. Protruding front teeth can lead to low self-esteem, as the affected child might become insecure about their dentition.
  • Open Bite: Open bite is somewhat similar to an overbite, only that both the front and bottom teeth are protruding or directed outwards in this case. When a child has an open bite, the front teeth and bottom teeth cannot touch even when they close their mouth. The open bite causes teeth misalignment. Just like overbite, an open bite can make your child insecure about their dentition. Open bite often results in bad chewing patterns which end up causing pain and discomfort.
  • Mouth Breathing: Thumb-sucking can lead to mouth breathing which can cause dental problems. Most times, children breathe through their mouths when sleeping. Sleeping off while sucking their thumb keeps their mouth open, thereby making it difficult to breathe with their nose. This causes them to breathe with their mouth through the night. The nose has mucus and hairs to serve as filters that keep out harmful bacteria. The mouth on the other hand does not have any of these filters, as such harmful bacteria enter and affect the teeth and gums when they breathe with their mouth.
  • Mouth Ulcers: Thumb-sucking leaves children more prone to mouth ulcers. This is caused by the scratching of the mouth palette when they suck. The tenderness of the mouth palette makes brushing difficult as it comes with pain. This will in turn cause the child to avoid brushing, which then leaves them susceptible to mouth ulcers and other dental problems.

This habit can affect your child’s physical health and their social skills. As such, it is important to try to curb it at an early stage. Remove their fingers from their mouth whenever you find them sucking. If your child has any of the oral health problems listed above, then it is best to visit a holistic dentist. 


Thumb-sucking cannot be overlooked, necessary steps should be taken as soon as possible to stop the habit. These include; keeping the hands busy and providing a distraction, mask-wearing, thumb guards and applying bad-tasting nail polish