5 Consequences of Thumb Sucking


Sucking onto the thumb comes naturally to infants and toddlers. In fact babies in the wombs of their mothers have been known to engage in this habit too. It’s something that predates their birth and continues well until the age of 4 to 5 years old.

After this, however, it starts becoming a bad habit which has potentially terrifying health consequences. Children can even carry this habit well into their early teens, at which point, it just looks immature and hints at underlying mental issues.

Doctors recommend that children wean off of this habit by the age of 3, but peer pressure can take care of the problem if thumb sucking does manage to carry over to a child’s early teens.

Negative long term consequences of excessive thumb sucking

The overbite

Once permanent teeth start growing, prolonged thumb sucking can push the upper teeth too far north of the lower teeth, causing misalignment. Misaligned teeth don’t just carry cosmetic grievances for children, they can also result in a medical term known as the overbite, which can be seen as an excessive overlapping of the upper teeth and lower teeth.

The normal degree of overlap is usually two millimeters, but a vertical overbite can result in well over 5 to 10 millimeters of overlap. Overbites can impact the facial appearance of a toddler by making their faces and chins looking smaller – it can even make them appear older! Not good for budding teens.

The openbite

All babies swallow food using the thrusting motion of their tongues which forms a seal between their lips, also known as the infantile swallowing pattern. In the adult stages of their lives, it’s the job of the teeth to form this seal. But thumb-sucking leaves the tongue between the teeth, which blocks the path for the teeth to grow properly.

This is known as the openbite, which is a space between the upper and lower teeth. The openbite can create problems with eating and swallowing food.

Speech impediments

The more time babies spend sucking their thumb, the less opportunity they get to develop their oral motor skills. They don’t get enough practice with forming different shapes with their mouths which is essential for normal speech. Their interaction with the outside world is impeded as a result, and they can turn out to be social outcasts – a problem which might require extensive therapy to fix in the future. To top it off, babies could also get affected by an infection in their ear which may cause major phonological disorders.

The spread of harmful bacteria

Adults know better than to lick their hands clean after running it across multiple areas around the house. Babies don’t! Their vigorous thumb-sucking results in a voracious spread of diseases, which can cause frequent and persistent illnesses. Children can transfer these viruses to other objects around the house through their saliva.

Increased curvature of the mouth’s roof

The increased pressure that the thumb exerts on the roof of the mouth can result in a narrowed upper palate. This can bring the left and right side of the teeth on the upper jaw closer together. This can create problems with the child’s breathing.

Please keep this in mind regarding your little ones. Contact Golden West Dentistry to learn more ways in which you can prevent future problem with your child.