does thumb sucking and soother affect baby teeth

Effects of Thumb Sucking & Soothers on Baby Teeth

February 2, 2022

Both a soother and thumb sucking affect the jaw and teeth in the same way. Both habits create suction, causing the cheeks and cheek muscles to pull in tight on the soother/thumb. Over time, the effect of these habits can cause lasting changes to the formation of the jaw and teeth. Both of these habits offer your baby comfort and are ok coping mechanisms up until around two years old when they should be weaned. 

Long Term Effects of Thumb Sucking/ Soother 

When habits are not weaned by two years old, changes to the position of the teeth and the size and shape of the jaw may occur. Due to the consistent force of suction and the cheeks pushing in on the jaw, the upper jaw can grow narrow and long, much like a squeezed in U shape. This can also affect how the top and bottom teeth contact each other. These habits can also cause an open space between the top and bottom front teeth that is evident when biting down, called an open bite. An open bite may cause difficulty when biting and chewing foods and make pronunciation more difficult. 

Correcting Open Bite/ Narrow Jaw 

Once an open bite and a narrow jaw have occurred from the use of a soother or thumb sucking, the teeth and jaw may have some self-correction when the habit stops but often won’t revert to normal. It will be necessary at the time to see an orthodontist for an examination, who will likely recommend early intervention orthodontics. Early intervention orthodontics help correct the problem as your child grows, instead of leaving the situation to get bigger and only correcting it once all the adult teeth have erupted. Early intervention orthodontics may consist of retainers, brackets, headgear, etc. 

Weaning Techniques 

It can be a complex process to wean your child out of a soother or thumb-sucking habit, but it is possible. Listed below are some weaning techniques 

  • Cold turkey 
  • Bitter nail polish for the thumb 
  • Cutting the tip off the end of the soother so no suction can be made 
  • Appliances such as a crib, which make it impossible to fit a thumb or finger in the mouth 

Some of these techniques are more accessible/less severe than others, and what works for one child may not work for another. Talk with your dentist or orthodontist about which technique will work best for your child. As always, we encourage you to contact us to schedule your visit or consultation.

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