Thumb-Sucking: Impacts on Dental Health and How to Stop It Salthouse Smiles

Pediatric Dentist in St. Louis, MO

At Salthouse Smiles, led by Dr. Corbin Salthouse, we understand that thumb-sucking is more than just a habit—it’s a part of early childhood development. While it provides comfort and calmness to infants and toddlers, prolonged thumb-sucking can lead to significant dental health challenges. In this article, we explore the effects of this common habit and offer strategies to help your child stop, guided by our pediatric dental expertise.

Dental Health Impacts of Thumb-Sucking

Thumb-sucking is usually harmless in infants and toddlers, but if the habit persists as permanent teeth emerge, it can lead to dental complications:

  1. Malocclusion Issues: Prolonged thumb-sucking can result in an ‘open bite’, where the front teeth do not meet when the mouth is closed. This condition can affect both the aesthetics of the smile and the functionality of the bite, a concern we often address at Salthouse Smiles.
  1. Altered Palate Structure: The consistent pressure from thumb-sucking can reshape the roof of the mouth, leading to a high-arched palate. This can impact speech, chewing, and the alignment of permanent teeth.
  1. Speech Difficulties: Misaligned teeth and altered palates from thumb-sucking can contribute to pronunciation challenges, an issue we’re attentive to in our pediatric dental assessments.
  1. Protruding Front Teeth: This is a common effect of thumb-sucking, leading to both functional challenges and potential self-consciousness in children.

Strategies to Overcome Thumb-Sucking

At Salthouse Smiles, we believe in a compassionate, patient-centered approach to addressing thumb-sucking:

  1. Positive Reinforcement: Celebrate your child’s successes in avoiding thumb-sucking. Positive reinforcement is more effective and aligns with our practice’s philosophy of encouraging healthy habits in a nurturing way.
  1. Understanding Triggers: Recognizing what prompts your child to suck their thumb is crucial. Addressing underlying emotional needs can be more effective than focusing solely on stopping the habit.
  1. Gentle Reminders: For older children, subtle reminders can help break the habit. This might include a soft bandage on the thumb or a special glove at night.
  1. Alternative Comforting Techniques: Offer other forms of comfort, like a beloved toy or extra cuddles, especially during times when they might miss thumb-sucking.
  1. Educational Approach: At Salthouse Smiles, we believe in educating our little patients about the importance of dental health in a kid-friendly manner. Explaining the consequences of thumb-sucking can be surprisingly effective.
  1. Professional Guidance: Persistent thumb-sucking might require a visit to our clinic. Dr. Salthouse and our team can offer tailored advice and, if necessary, recommend appropriate dental appliances.


At Salthouse Smiles, we’re dedicated to ensuring your child’s journey toward healthy dental habits is smooth and stress-free. Thumb-sucking is a natural phase, but with the right approach and support, it can be transitioned out safely and positively, ensuring your child’s smile remains healthy and bright. If you have concerns about your child’s thumb-sucking habit, our team is here to provide expert advice and care.