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AAPD | Mouth Monsters

Little Teeth Truths: Is thumb sucking hurting my child’s teeth?

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Question: My 8-year-old is still working to break her thumb sucking habit. Is this hurting her teeth and any advice to help her stop?

Answer: Sucking on a thumb or finger is normal for infants and young children and most children stop on their own. However, if a child doesn’t stop on their own, we do advise parents to discourage the habit ideally after age 3. Prolonged thumb sucking can lead to crooked teeth and bite problems affecting both baby teeth and permanent teeth that are developing, causing upper front teeth to tip outward and upper jaw to narrow in the back.

Be sure to use a positive approach and focus on praising your child when they are not thumb sucking. Initially, you could try limiting the time and location thumb sucking occurs, for example only at home or only while the child is in their bedroom to help them ease out of the habit. Be sure to speak with your pediatric dentist about specific tips to help your child stop her thumb sucking habit. Your pediatric dentist can offer advice and make recommendations based on your child’s demeanor and explain the effects on teeth to your child in an appropriate manner during your regular check-ups. Often, this advice, along with support from parents, enables many children to quit.

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Jade Miller, D.D.S., AAPD, President-Elect. Dr. Jade Miller is the president-elect for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. He has maintained a private practice in pediatric dentistry since 1983 in Reno, Nevada. Dr. Miller is a Board Certified pediatric dentist and a diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. He received his BA from the University of Nevada, Reno and his Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry. Dr. Miller was appointed by the Nevada governor to the Nevada State Board of Health and is also a member of Nevada Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the International College of Dentists. In addition to lecturing nationally, he is a faculty member of the University of Washington and University of the Pacific, School of Dentistry and University of Nevada, School of Medicine.