Why Sucking Your Thumb Could Hurt Your Oral Health

Any parent of a young child knows that thumb sucking is a natural reflex. In fact, many children start sucking their thumbs while they’re still in the womb.

But did you know that your children can harm their oral health if they continue sucking their thumbs past infancy?

It’s true. According to the British Orthodontic Society, if children continue sucking their thumbs past the age of seven, they could inflict permanent damage to their mouths. What’s more, one out of every eight children between the ages of seven and 11 suck their thumbs.

So stopping your children from sucking their thumbs when they get to a certain age is important – and every parent should be aware of it.

What are the dangers?

Why is prolonged thumb sucking potential dangerous, as according to dentists like this Bradford dentist? Well, Iranian experts have found that thumb sucking can lead to speech impairment, irregularities in teeth, malocclusion and intra-oral ulcers. The National Institutes of Health in the United States says that the most frequent malocclusions associated with prolonged thumb sucking habits are an anterior open bite and a posterior crossbite.

Meanwhile, the Mayo Clinic says that thumb sucking can harm the roof of the mouth and how teeth line up.

The American Dental Association and the Journal of Dentistry, Medicine and Medical Sciences have published articles advocating that parents use thumb guards to dissuade their children from sucking their thumbs.

Why instilling good oral habits in your children now is important

While many parents allow their children to brush on their own to foster a sense of self-reliance, experts believe that could be a bad idea in the long run.

In a recent article in Hindustan Times, dental experts said it’s important to make sure your child is not indulging in habits like thumb sucking and tongue thrusting.

“A parent plays a very crucial role when it comes to taking care of a child’s oral health. It is very important to start early and last through teenage years – in an age-dependent fashion. It’s unfortunate that so many parents make so many mistakes when it comes to raising kids with decay-free teeth,” Dr. Riddhi Katara, founder of Experteeth Dental Care, said in the article.

Disregarding the formation of good oral health habits early in life can lead to serious oral health issues for many adults down the road.

Thus, it’s critical that parents instill in their children the importance of maintaining good oral health, particularly because oral health can affect a person’s overall health, including their cardiovascular system.

According to, if you notice your child is sucking their thumb throughout the day past the age of four, it’s time to address the issue with the help of a dentist and your pediatrician. Identifying the triggers to thumb sucking and utilizing positive reinforcement can encourage your child to abandon the behavior.

However, it is ill-advised to try and force your child to stop the behavior, as giving it too much attention can potentially cause the issue to persist.