My Child Sucks His Thumb. Will He Need Braces?

There is something precious about a child sucking their thumb in photos, especially when they are little. Those baby thumb-sucking pictures are adorable and preserve a part of your child’s history. However, if your child is getting older and preparing for school, you may want to think about weaning him or her off the thumb or the pacifier. Children who suck their thumbs or who use a pacifier may need orthodontics later.

Thumb Sucking and Braces

When your son or daughter were babies, they didn’t have any teeth to get in the way of their thumb sucking or the pacifier. Children suck their thumbs or use pacifiers as a way to self-soothe.

However, as they get older and their baby teeth start to come in, sucking a thumb, finger, or pacifier can increasingly become a problem. Sucking on objects puts stress on teeth and tooth alignment. Often, when children suck their thumbs past the early childhood stage, which ends around the ages of three or four, they develop malocclusions–issues with their bites.

Children who suck their thumbs are more likely to develop a crossbite. When crossbites happen, children’s teeth don’t line up properly when they bite down. Some children’s bites won’t close at all, which is called an open bite. These malocclusions, if they are severe, mean that it is more likely your child will need orthodontics to fix their bite issues.

What Can I Do?

If your child is still sucking their thumb and they are out of the toddler stage, it is time to start weaning them off their thumb-sucking. Parent experts advocate trying to encourage your child to drop their thumb-sucking habit on their own with gentle reminders from you. You might also want to try rewarding your child when you see they aren’t sucking their thumbs. Repetition and reminders are a great way to help your child break their thumb-sucking habit.