Thumb-sucking is a common habit. In fact, studies find that up to 90% of kids may do this at some point in their young lives. Despite its prevalence, it’s important for parents to recognize the potential impact that it may have on their little one’s teeth. If your child sucks their thumb, here’s what you should know about its effect, why it’s important to visit the dentist, and how you can help them quit.

When Kids Should Stop Sucking Their Thumb

The average child will generally stop sucking their thumb by the time they’re four years old or a little younger. It may coincide with the time their permanent teeth are about to erupt. If your little one continues thumb-sucking past this point, consider visiting a pediatrician for some helpful strategies and to determine what may be the underlying cause. Infrequently, thumb-sucking after age five might be related to an issue like anxiety.  

Effects on Teeth & Mouth


While thumb-sucking at a very young age is typically not problematic, it can have a greater impact on older children—particularly if they partake in the habit frequently. Regularly sucking their thumb can cause the teeth to become misaligned or pushed outward, leading to an overbite that may require the care of a dentist. While some issues can be corrected if the child discontinues the habit, repetitive thumb-sucking for years may eventually require a child to wear braces. It can even make the roof of the mouth feel more sensitive and change the jaw’s silhouette, which may ultimately affect speech by causing a lisp.

Helping Your Little One Quit

Issue praise when your child stops sucking their thumb. The idea here is to help them view quitting the habit as a positive sign, and one that will continually be met with your enthusiasm. Think about what might trigger them to suck their thumb, too. If they do so when they are tired or hungry, thumb-sucking may be a soothing habit that helps them focus on something else. Use this opportunity to direct their attention elsewhere, such as by sitting down with them and drawing pictures or going outside and tossing a ball around. If these techniques aren’t successful, consider asking a pediatrician or family dentist for help.


If your little one sucks their thumb, you can find the help they need at Cooper Family Dentistry. Proudly serving clients throughout Gilbert and Chandler, AZ, and surrounding areas, they offer a comprehensive range of general and cosmetic dentistry services, including cleanings, whitening, and general dental exams. Visit the website to learn more, or call (480) 964-1000 to schedule an appointment with the dentist.