Effects of dummies & thumb sucking on kids teeth

Does your little one suck their thumb or use a dummy? It can be a way to pacify them when they’re young, but did you know that it can cause long term damage to their teeth as they grow nearer to school age?
Does your little one suck their thumb or use a dummy?

It can be a way to pacify them when they’re young, but did you know that it can cause long term damage to their teeth as they grow nearer to school age?

Sucking is a natural reflex that helps babies thrive. In fact, your little one was probably sucking on their fingers and thumbs before they were born.

After birth, thumb sucking or using a dummy can provide comfort to your little one and even help them to fall asleep.

However, as they get older, the impact of sucking their thumb or using a dummy can interfere with the growth of their mouth and the alignment of their teeth.

What the dental experts say


Recommendations from dental experts suggest that you should start weaning your child off sucking their thumb or using a dummy as soon as possible, ideally before 3 years old.

It can take up to a year or longer for some children to give up their dummy or to stop sucking their thumb and it can be traumatic for both parents and children.

However starting early allows you to use a slow and gentle approach. You can always start by minimising their dummy use during the day and taking the dummy out once they have fallen asleep.

Thumb sucking is harder to stop, but gentle reminders and taking their thumb out at night is a great start.

Long term effects of using dummies & thumb sucking


For long term dummy users and thumb suckers it’s not uncommon for them to have an anterior open bite (where the front teeth don’t touch when biting together) and/or a posterior cross-bite (where the back teeth don’t bite together properly).

Young children have soft malleable bones, and when there is an object frequently in the way, the bones slowly start to mould around it, creating a gap where the teeth don’t bite together any longer.

Early intervention is important and will help to avoid more difficult correcting procedures when they are older.

Not all children are adversely affected by regular thumb sucking or frequent use of their dummy, but  if you can see there is a problem with their bite, then it’s time to start weaning them off the habit.

If you start early enough, the effects may not be permanent and your child may be able to avoid early orthodontic care.


Tooth decay


Remember to follow good hygiene procedures when using dummies to help prevent tooth decay.

As well as affecting a child’s teeth and bite, dummies can cause serious and rapid tooth decay if they are dipped in sugary substances such as honey, jam, condensed milk or vitamin C syrups.

If you suck your child’s dummy to clean it for instance, there is also a risk of tooth decay by transferring bacteria from your mouth to your child’s.

Gather some tips


When trying to wean your little one from their dummy or thumb, speak to other parents who may have gone through a similar situation and ask them to share their tips.

Talk to your child’s dentist and ask for their advice to help prevent long term damage to your little one's teeth.

Check out our useful articles on 10 Steps To Ditching The Dummy and How To Stop The Thumb-Sucking too.

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Image source: Analytical Armadillo

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