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Does Thumb-Sucking Cause Children To Need Braces?

Thumb-sucking is a natural, innate human instinct. For young children, this prevalent reflex is a comfort measure to self-soothe. Nonetheless, a thumb-sucking tendency is a childhood behavior to which parents should pay close attention to ensure healthy growth and development.

Over time, numerous questions may arise about the potential consequences of thumb-sucking. Many parents often wonder: Does thumb-sucking cause children to need braces? Read on to uncover further information about this common concern.

The Orthodontic Dilemma of Thumb-Sucking

Thumb-sucking is normal behavior during the stages of early childhood. However, dental health issues may develop when the behavior carries on past ages four or five. At this age, the mouth is impressionable, with soft, malleable tissue, but this behavior can cause damage as the permanent teeth begin to come in.

Teeth misalignment is one of the leading consequences of thumb-sucking that parents should be concerned about if their child holds onto the habit for too long. Failure to grow out of a thumb-sucking habit can also negatively affect the natural growth and development of the teeth and jaw. The resulting ramifications could eventually lead to a child requiring braces or alternative orthodontic interventions.

Braces Are Not an Inevitability

Does thumb-sucking cause children to need braces? Yes, in some situations—but not all. There is a possibility that a child’s thumb-sucking habit will lead directly to braces down the road, but you’ll find instances of prolonged thumb-sucking that don’t require this corrective fix later in life. Ergo, the answer is that the need for braces is a case-by-case scenario.

According to WebMD, orthodontic braces may help a child’s teeth move back into place. Braces are an effective, relatively common method to correct orthodontic problems caused by a thumb-sucking habit. The type of orthodontic treatment required will depend on the issue that has developed. Only a specialist in the field can make the appropriate recommendations for a specific child’s future orthodontic needs. To a large extent, orthodontic work isn’t inevitable if parents can stop the habit as early and as effectively as possible.

How To Curb the Common Habit

If you’re concerned about the influence of the behavior on your child’s dental health in the coming years, consider the best methods to discourage a frequent or prolonged sucking habit. As experts at Orthodontics Australia note, a child’s jaw growth is more likely to be affected—and their teeth more likely to become misaligned—after age four. The pressure from consistent sucking can cause their teeth or jaw to move in the wrong direction.

Fortunately, several tactics are available to help a child break the habit, including positive reinforcement, rewards, reminders, and medical appliances. Thumb guards—including the AeroThumb by TGuard—are effective options to make the sucking sensation less pleasurable. Learn more about this dentist-recommended prevention device on our website.


Thumb sucking and concerns” by Orthodontics Australia

What to Know About Effects of Thumb Sucking on Teeth” from WebMD