Thumbsucking FAQs: Will Your Child Need Braces?

Although many children suck their thumbs when they are young without developing any problems, some may find that the habit ultimately affects their teeth. For example, in some cases, thumb sucking may lead to the need for orthodontic bracing to correct dental misalignments. The chances of this happening basically depend on how long your child continues the habit.

How Old Is Your Child?

Thumb sucking is a common oral comfort habit for young children. According to the Better Health Channel, most kids stop sucking their thumbs naturally between the ages of two and four. If your child stops in this age range, you aren't likely to see any long-term problems with their teeth that will need corrective braces.

However, children may develop problems if they continue to habitually suck their thumbs later than this. Typically, this becomes problematic if a child hasn't given up the habit by the age of five or so, when the adult teeth start to appear. If your child continues to suck their thumb while their adult teeth are developing and coming through, the teeth may not fall into their correct positions, as the pressure from sucking may push them out of place.

When Should You See an Orthodontist?

According to the Australian Society of Orthodontists, you should have an orthodontic check-up if your child won't quit thumb sucking after the age of five. This is worth doing even if you can't see any obvious problems with tooth development yourself. Your orthodontist can spot current issues and the potential for future misalignment that you may not be able to see.

You should also book a check-up if you think that your child's permanent teeth are not coming through correctly. For example, the following issues may be a sign that your child needs an orthodontic check-up to see if thumb sucking is causing problems:

  • Your child's front teeth are further forward or further back than they should be.
  • Your child has a lisp.
  • Your child's top and bottom teeth don't meet when they are placed together.

If your child's teeth are affected by thumb sucking, your orthodontist may recommend braces or other orthodontic treatment down the line. If there are no major signs of misalignment, your child may not need braces if you can get them to stop the habit before it causes permanent damage.

Tip: Getting a thumb sucker to quit can be tricky. Avoid nagging or scaring your child by telling them that their favourite digit is going to ruin their teeth. Gentle persuasion, encouragement and rewards are more likely to help a thumb sucker give up the habit.