Baby Sucking Thumb

A parent’s guide to thumb sucking and dummy habits

Thumb sucking and the use of a dummy are totally normal – they provide comfort and security to little ones and are most common between the ages of three months and two years.

But if these habits continue past a certain age, they can lead to dental problems.

We’ve put together some top tips to stop these habits, advice if you’re concerned about dental damage and how your dentist can help.

How do thumb sucking and dummy use affect your child’s teeth?

Child sucking thumb, next to mum sat on sofa holding a baby

Thumb sucking

Did you know that one in every eight children, aged 7-11, has a prolonged thumb-sucking habit? And girls are more likely to be prolonged thumb suckers than boys*?

Thumb sucking is particularly common in children under the age of seven and usually comes to an end on its own. In some cases, the habit continues beyond this age, which can lead to dental problems.


Dummies don’t cause as much trouble for adult teeth as thumb sucking, as a dummy habit is usually curbed before the age of seven. You should be aware, though, that the longer your child uses a dummy, the more chance there is that the structure of their mouth will be affected.

This can affect how baby teeth, and permanent teeth later on, meet when they close their mouth or bite down.

Dummies can also affect speech development, which is why they aren’t recommended for children over a year old.

If thumb sucking or dummy use continues beyond the age of seven, when adult teeth start to appear, it can affect the position of your child’s teeth in three ways:

  • A vertical gap between the front teeth, known as an open bite, may develop where the teeth are making space for the thumb or dummy. This can make it hard to bite certain foods
  • The upper front teeth may begin to stick out
  • The upper jaw may narrow and cause a crossbite – where the back teeth don’t meet in the correct position

As a result, your child might end up needing braces braces to fix the problem in the future.

The extent of the damage usually depends on how often and for how long your child sucks their thumb – they’ll usually have problems with their teeth if they suck for more than six hours per day or night beyond the age of seven years’ old.

How can your dentist help?

If you’re struggling with thumb sucking, your dentist can offer you guidance and support. It’s important to try and address the problem before any damage is done, so taking your child for regular dental check-ups means problems can be spotted early.

If nothing else has worked, your dentist might also be able to give you a thumb-sucking appliance, sometimes known as a ‘habit breaker’, to help break a persistent thumb sucking habit. It prevents your child from being able to place their thumb in their mouth, in a comfortable position.

If your child’s teeth have been affected by either thumb sucking or dummy habits, your dentist can advise you about potential options for fixing the problem. This usually includes orthodontic treatment, also known as teeth straightening. However, they won’t be able to have braces until they’ve broken the habit, so it’s important to try and curb it early on.

Find your local practice

If you’re looking for guidance on thumb sucking or dummy use, or want to book a child’s check -up, contact your local practice who will be happy to help. Search for your nearest practice below and get in touch.

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