Thumbsucking and Healthy Teeth

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Thumbsucking is normal for babies and toddlers. Some may even suck their entire hand! But unfortunately, once your toddler starts to grow teeth, the habit can cause dental problems.  

Thumbsucking can cause: 

  • Bite problems
  • Misaligned permanent teeth
  • Dental issues
  • Sore, callused thumbs
  • Infections


Thumbsucking is a self-soothing activity. When children are stressed, hurt, or feeling unwell, it's only natural for them to rely on something that makes them comfortable. Unfortunately, many parents try to make their child stop through force, bad-tasting products, or other negative methods. This makes a child need more comfort and be more likely to suck their thumb. 

Positive Reinforcement 

There are a lot of ways to incorporate positive reinforcement into habit-breaking.

  • Offer praise when you notice your child using other methods to self-soothe
  • Try limiting thumbsucking to certain times, like bed time
  • Offer a pacifier instead
  • Help your child find new ways to comfort themselves, like a blanket or stuffed animal
  • Talk to your child about why you want them to stop
  • Let them know you're there to help 

When to Talk to Your Dentist

If you notice your child's teeth looking crowded or crooked, it's time to get a dentist involved. They can take a look at the way the teeth are coming in and tell you: 

  • If there is a problem 
  • If the problem is caused by thumbsucking 

They can also help you with orthodontics (braces or mouthguards) to keep teeth straight and discourage thumbsucking. For most children, this is a problem that resolves with a little encouragement. But if your child is older than 4, you may want to actively approach it.