Thumb Sucking Could Have an Effect on Your Baby’s Teeth

If your child doesn’t do this, then you’ve probably seen or met one who spends most of their time sucking their thumbs. Thumb sucking, or sucking on any other finger(s) is a common habit among babies and toddlers. 

Why Babies and Young Children Suck Their Thumb

Sucking in babies and children is a reflex action. It is natural and usually done subconsciously. There are reasons why children suck their thumbs. These include:

  • Hunger– Sucking in newborns may indicate hunger hence they do so to communicate to the mother that it wants to be fed.
  • Comfort – Babies may also suck their thumbs as a way of soothing themselves. As they suck they forget about the boredom they feel, feelings of sleepiness and tiredness.
  • Assurance – They tend to feel secure when they suck. Sucking their thumbs may be used to drive off fear so that they feel safe and relaxed.
  • Habit – The thumb is also sucked just because of its accessibility to the baby mouth. 

Does It Affect the Baby’s Teeth?

While thumb sucking doesn’t always lead to tooth problems, if it continues during a growth spurt it can create complications such as tooth misalignment that would call for a visit to the dentist. Other problems that could occur as a result of thumb sucking include:

  • Protruding upper anterior teeth (the upper front teeth are pushed outwards)
  • Lower anterior teeth that lean in (the lower front teeth are pushed inwards)
  • A condition called ‘open-bite’ which prevents the upper and lower front teeth from meeting even when the mouth is closed
  • Speech problems
  • The tongue doesn’t sit well in the mouth, thereby constricting the upper jaw and causing a lateral crossbite (teeth are shifted left or right).

Stopping the Habit

It may not be easy to make your child stop sucking their thumb, but you can devise ways that can help them stop it, especially if they have attained the age of three and above.

Here are some interventions you could incorporate:

  • Talk to them – Always start by talking to your child about why thumb sucking is a bad habit. This can help them decide whether he or she wants to quit. 
  • Make a plan – Identify your child’s favorite thumb – sucking times and have them devise a quitting plan that focuses on these times.
  • Praise them – When they make an effort not to suck for some time, praise and motivate them. 
  • Discourage them – You can show them videos on youtube on children who suck their thumbs and how they appear and this may make them reconsider the habit.


Please note that development differs from one child to another. 

Content intended for educational purposes only, and not a substitute for medical advice from your doctor.

Be careful when using any products mentioned on this website. We hold no regulations for such products or their providers.

Last reviewed March 2019 

Sources: mumsvillage, childrensmd, babycenter, mayoclinic

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