Not-nutritive sucking habits like thumb-sucking is an adaptive function that provides stimulation & comfort to babies. Usually, it stops between 2-4 years of age. However, if your child continues thumb-sucking after this age, it can cause various dental issues. 1
According to research, oral habits like thumbsucking lead to malocclusion (commonly known as bad bites). 2 Another study found that children with poor dental health are more likely to miss school and perform poorly due to dental pain. 3
The good news? You can stop damage to teeth from thumbsucking by helping your kid to stop this habit at an early age. So, Let’s learn how to fix an overbite from thumbsucking so you can preserve your kid’s beautiful smile for a lifetime!
Why Do Babies Suck Their Thumbs?
Babies have natural sucking reflexes, so they put their fingers, thumb, and other objects into their mouths. This habit helps kids to feel secure, release tension and induce sleep.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who suck their thumb have strong immunity, decreasing their chances of getting certain allergies.
So, thumb sucking is actually beneficial at an early age, but kids should stop doing it till 2-4 years of age. Otherwise, it can cause various dental and speech problems in adults.
Now you might be wondering why adults suck their thumbs? Let’s look at it in detail!
Causes of Thumbsucking in Adults
Thumbsucking makes kids feel safe and secure, so some adults continue this behavior for the same reasons.
Whenever they are stressed or encounter an uncomfortable situation, they start doing activities they used to do at their early stage of development. This is called age regression and may include behavior like: 4
- Verbally abusing stuff
- Being physically aggressive
- Sucking thumb or other body parts
1 in 10 adults are involved in this habit, and some just do it as an involuntary action or to relieve boredom.
Can Thumbsucking Cause An Overbite?
Yes, kids who continue thumb-sucking after 2-4 years of age are more likely to develop overbite or open bite.
A study was done on preschool children to find the association between oral habits and the prevalence of malocclusion.
Results reveal that not-nutritive sucking habits are a major risk factor for developing issues like posterior crossbite and anterior open bite. 6
Malocclusion is a common dental issue that occurs when your upper and lower teeth are misaligned. It can cause many other dental and speech problems, so it should be treated timely.
Long-Term Effects of Thumbsucking
Thumbsucking after age five can cause permanent changes in the shape of children’s mouth and their lips and teeth alignment.
Commonly seen thumb-sucking long-term effects include the following:
This occurs when the child’s top teeth are misaligned. Overbite further has two types:
- Vertical Overbite: This happens when the top teeth overlay the bottom teeth.
- Horizontal Overbite:In this condition, the top teeth prolong the bottom teeth. Sometimes bottom jaw might protrude towards the neck and cause an overbite.
Remember, these issues can’t be treated at home and require proper treatment.
2. Misaligned Teeth
This is the most common issue, and it can further result in changes in the shape of the jaw, bite issues, and other dental problems.
3. Speech Issues
People who do thumb-sucking may also have difficulty pronouncing certain words or experience lisp.
4. Bite Issues
Your child may face the following bite issues due to thumb sucking:
- Openbiteoccurs when a child’s lower and upper teeth don’t touch even after the mouth is closed.
- Underbiteis another teeth misalignment issue during which a child’s bottom teeth extend beyond their upper teeth.
5. Skin Problems on Thumb
Regular thumb sucking may lead to sensitivity of the thumb, bleeding, cracking, infection, or nail problems.
How to Stop Thumbsucking?
Breaking a habit is challenging, and it takes time. Furthermore, the thumbsucking treatment will vary according to your child’s age. However, the following tips can help:
- Firstly, don’t be harsh with your kid and deal with them patiently.
- Offer rewards when your child avoids thumbsucking. You can make a calendar and record the days when your child didn’t suck the thumb or had a lesser frequency of thumb sucking than other days. Mark those days as successful and offer rewards like a long hug, taking them out, buying them a toy, etc.
- Avoid scolding them and offer gentle reminders to stop thumbsucking.
- Besides, whether you are dealing with an adult or a kid, identifying their triggers can help in both situations. They are more likely to suck their thumb when stressed so you can comfort them in other ways during such conditions.
- Behavioral therapy can also help to deal with such negative coping mechanisms.
Thumbsucking is a natural behavior and is actually good for kids at an early age. However, it starts to cause certain speech and dental problems if kids continue doing it after their teeth have developed properly.
It’s mandatory to fix thumbsucking timely; otherwise, it may lead to issues like overbite. Some adults also do thumbsucking and might need behavioral therapy if home remedies are not working.
1. Can I correct overbite myself?
No, you can’t fix overbite by yourself. It occurs due to teeth misalignment; you can’t shift them back into the proper position without adequate treatment. You will need braces or surgery to get this job done.
2. How do you fix an overbite from thumbsucking adults?
There are various ways to fix an overbite from thumbsucking in adults. These include wearing braces or Invisalign clear aligners and surgery.
- Gutierrez, D. S., & Carugno, P. (2023). Thumb sucking. In StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.
- Goto, S., Boyd, R. L., Nielsen, I. L., & Iizuka, T. (1994). Long-term followup of orthodontic treatment of a patient with maxillary protrusion, severe deep overbite and thumb-sucking. The Angle Orthodontist, 64(1), 7-12.
- Jackson, S. L., Vann Jr, W. F., Kotch, J. B., Pahel, B. T., & Lee, J. Y. (2011). Impact of poor oral health on children’s school attendance and performance. American journal of public health, 101(10), 1900-1906.
- Lokko, H. N., & Stern, T. A. (2015). Regression: Diagnosis, evaluation, and management. The primary care companion for CNS disorders, 17(3), 27221.
- Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2014). Understanding the impact of trauma. In Trauma-informed care in behavioral health services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US).
- Kasparaviciene, K., Sidlauskas, A., Zasciurinskiene, E., Vasiliauskas, A., Juodzbalys, G., Sidlauskas, M., & Marmaite, U. (2014). The prevalence of malocclusion and oral habits among 5–7-year-old children. Medical science monitor: international medical journal of experimental and clinical research, 20, 2036.
- Caruso, S., Nota, A., Darvizeh, A., Severino, M., Gatto, R., & Tecco, S. (2019). Poor oral habits and malocclusions after usage of orthodontic pacifiers: an observational study on 3–5 years old children. BMC pediatrics, 19(1), 1-9.