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Thumb Sucking: When to Worry

Toddler Being Seen by an Orthodontist in San Antonio

If your child has a thumb sucking habit, does it mean braces later on? As your trusted San Antonio orthodontist, we get this question a lot. The truth is, it depends. Thumb sucking is a very natural habit for babies, but if your child is still using his or her thumb to self-soothe past the age of 4 or 5, you could be set up for orthodontic correction.

Why Thumb Sucking is So Common

In order to establish feeding, babies are born with a strong sucking reflex. However, this sucking behavior tends to dissipate at around 4 months of age. If your baby is still sucking his or her thumb, it has usually become a self-soothing mechanism. As parents, it can be a relief to see our baby sucking a thumb instead of requiring a pacifier to settle down or go to sleep. Unfortunately, this habit can’t last forever without some dental consequences. At what age should you try to break your child of thumb sucking?

Why Age Matters

When it comes to the impact that thumb sucking can have on your child’s bite alignment and speech, the effects are directly related to the age of your child. Most kids kick the habit between ages 2 and 4, and there is typically no harm done at this point. However, you have reason to worry if your child is still sucking his or her thumb by the time kindergarten rolls around. Around the age of 6 or 7, the adult teeth will begin to erupt and the alignment of the front teeth can be significantly compromised if thumb sucking is still present. In such cases, braces or other orthodontic treatment may be necessary.

The Noted Risks of Prolonged Thumb Sucking

If your child is still relying on thumb sucking as a self-soothing habit, either during the day or during the night, the following concerns can occur:

  • Overbite or underbite development
  • A lisp or other speech difficulties
  • Jaw positioning issues
  • Sensitive or altered roof of the mouth
  • Vulnerability to sickness due to germs

How to Help Your Older Child Stop

It is not uncommon for school-aged kids to use thumb sucking as a way to cope or as some type of emotional response. First, find out what triggers their oral habit. Next, try to either distract your child during these situations or replace the thumb sucking with a different means of self-soothing. Try not to punish or get angry with your child for thumb sucking, as it is typically subconscious habit at this age.

Already seeing the negative impact of thumb sucking on your child’s smile? Don’t worry. We can help you at Schatz Orthodontics. Along with offering appliances to help your child break a thumb sucking habit, we can also offer the orthodontic treatment needed to correct any misalignment that may have already occurred.

Posted on behalf of Schatz Orthodontics

22610 US Highway 281 North, Suite 201
San Antonio, TX 78258

Phone: (210) 494-4606

Free consultation for new patients!

Call: (210) 494-4606
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22610 US Highway 281 North, Suite 201
San Antonio, TX 78258


(210) 494-4606

Opening Hours

Monday - Wednesday 7:00AM – 4:30PM
Thursday 7:00AM – 4:00PM
Lunch Time 12:30PM - 1:30PM

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