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Our Salisbury Pediatric Dentist Explains How Thumb Sucking Can Harm Teeth

Plenty of parents rely on pacifiers, teething toys, and other items designed for children to suck on in order to encourage emotional regulation and self-soothing in their children. Unfortunately, while early thumb sucking is mostly considered harmless, it can begin to negatively impact the teeth if it persists past age four. Keep reading to learn how thumb sucking can damage your child’s smile.

Open Bites

The most serious permanent side effects of thumb sucking are dental malocclusions, the medical term for tooth misalignment. One of the most common type of malocclusion caused by thumb sucking is called an “open bite,” a condition that occurs when the top and bottom front teeth slant outwards, not touching even when the child’s mouth is completely closed. Open bite may require orthodontic correction in the future, and may complicate other orthodontic conditions.


Overbites occur when the upper front teeth protrude outwards past the bottom teeth when the child’s mouth is closed. Overbite malocclusions can affect the shape of the face and smile, and may require extensive orthodontic treatment to be corrected. In some cases, patients with overbites may to wear headgear and other alternative orthodontic appliances, since the overlapping teeth can prevent proper placement of traditional metal braces brackets.

Speech Impediments

Thumb sucking affects the development of the teeth, jaw, and palate, meaning that the habit can also change how your child eats and speaks. Thumb sucking may cause lisping and other speech impediments, including an inability to pronounce hard consonant sounds like “D” and “T.” Without correct dental care, even high-quality speech therapy may not fully correct these impediments, because the deformed sounds are partially caused by the shape of your child’s teeth in relation to his or her tongue.

Speech impediments may make it more difficult for your child to communicate effectively, resulting in high levels of frustration, anger, and feelings of isolation.

How Can I Help My Child Stop Sucking His or Her Thumb?

As you work to help your child stop thumb sucking, it’s important to remember that this habit does not indicate any physiological or developmental issues. For most children, it is simply  a subconscious response to stress or boredom. eliminating thumb sucking behavior is a goal that you can work toward over time, and one that should be achieved through positive reinforcement rather than punishment. If the behavior persists, your child may need your help and the help of a pediatric dentist to break the habit.

Need a Pediatric Dentist in Salisbury? Visit Salisbury Pediatric Dentistry!

Fuquay Pediatric Dentistry is here to help you conquer all of your child’s dental needs. We are excited to join the Salisbury community to offer exceptional dental pediatric services to local families. To request an appointment with our office, please fill out our contact form here.