Thumb sucking is one of the most common reasons why people need orthodontic treatment. It is also a common habit among young children, so parents are often reasonably concerned about it.
Until the child’s permanent teeth start coming in, there is little cause for worry. Children’s skull bones are more flexible than those of adults, and while thumb sucking puts pressure on them, they can spring back. However, with the eruption of the first permanent teeth around the age of five, children’s faces start to solidify. After this point, continued thumb sucking will draw the teeth forward, resulting in an open bite, and they have a higher chance of being stuck that way.
An open bite makes oral hygiene difficult and may interfere with speech, which is why orthodontics is needed to correct it. If thumb sucking continues during or after orthodontic work, the patient will have a high risk of relapse. Because thumb sucking is often motivated by a need to self-soothe, it is best to include the child in developing strategies for breaking the habit. In extreme cases, assistance from a child psychologist may be necessary.