Does Thumb Sucking cause dental problems?

Does Thumb Sucking cause dental problems?

Thumb and finger habits make up the majority of oral habits, about 2/3 of such habits are ended by age 5 years. Types of dental changes vary according to:

Intensity: the amount of force applied on teeth during sucking, Frequency: the number of times the habit is practiced during the day, and Duration: the amount of time spent sucking which is considered the greatest influence.

Clinical evidence suggests that 4-6 hours of force/day is the minimum to cause tooth movement. The most frequent dental signs are anterior open bite, facial movement of upper incisors & lingual movement of lower incisors, and maxillary constriction.

What are the treatments for Thumb Sucking?

Timing is important, if the child is not willing to stop the habit; interference should not be done so give the child the opportunity to stop the habit spontaneously. It’s possible to delay treatment until early school age because the child may spontaneously discontinue the habit due to peer pressure. Psychological evaluation is an important issue before starting the treatment for example; parents divorce, moving to a new community, changing schools, etc. 

How do we approach pediatric dentists?

The simplest way is counseling through adult-like discussion. Other approaches such as constant reminder therapy, and a reward system motivate the child to receive a reward if the habit is discontinued. The Adjunctive therapy is done if the habit exists after reminder & reward therapy by utilizing either wrapping the child’s arm in an elastic bandage so that it cannot be flexed or placing an appliance in the child’s mouth:

1-Quad helix: expansion of the maxilla,

2-Palatal crib: interruption of digit-sucking habit

It’s important that the dentist should explain to the patient & parents that these appliances are not considered as a punishment.


Contact us now to schedule an appointment!

Dr. Tala Mohammad

Pediatric Dentist


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