Thumb Sucking And Pacifiers: When To Worry

Orthodontists near Cumming GAWhen a baby finds his thumb or uses a pacifier for self-soothing, it is often a relief for the parents. However, when does this heartwarming habit become a risk to their dental health? More specifically, when does thumb sucking or pacifier use disrupt a child’s bite and set them up for orthodontic treatment

Age and Technique are Important

Sucking on the thumb or pacifier is a normal and natural reflex for infants. In most cases, the habit is dropped by the age of 2. However, you need to address the habit if your child is still thumb sucking after the age of 4 or approaching kindergarten. The American Dental Association suggests that there is a risk of teeth alignment issues and abnormal mouth development if the habit continues beyond this age.

Another influential factor in determining if your child’s thumb sucking habit is threatening their bite pertains to their sucking technique. It is important to evaluate how vigorously your child is sucking. Does your child display an aggressive sucking action or is he simply resting his thumb inside the mouth?

Orthodontic Concerns

Vigorous thumb sucking beyond the age of 4 can produce the following orthodontic concerns:

  • Open bite – the back molars touch but not the front teeth when biting
  • Improper eruption of front teeth
  • Crowded teeth
  • Abnormal tongue rest – can alter breathing and cause unwanted functional patterns

Other Consequences

Prolonged thumb sucking can also cause problems beyond their bite, including complications in speech as well as skin problems on the thumb or finger, including cuticle infections and other adverse reactions. In addition, your child is introducing new bacteria into the mouth every time they engage in their habit. This can pose a significant risk to their overall health.

Reach Out for Help

At Walton Orthodontics, we routinely treat kids who struggle with thumb sucking into their school-age years. We can help your child eliminate the habit through a variety of tactics. If necessary, there are special oral appliances that can be used to stop severe cases of thumb sucking so that it does not prolong or disrupt orthodontic treatment.


Walton Orthodontics
2609 Peachtree Pkwy, #C
Suwanee, GA 30024
(770) 663-0955

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