Airway and Sleep Group Podcast

How Thumb Sucking can alter your child’s appearance

November 11, 2021 Dr. Liliana Calkins
Airway and Sleep Group Podcast
How Thumb Sucking can alter your child’s appearance
Show Notes

Some people find it adorable when a baby sucks his or her thumb. Although that is a normal occurrence, the continuation of the habit into the toddler and elementary school years of a child could negatively affect their oral and facial development.

Thumb sucking can cause some children to create what is commonly known as a dental openbite (a vertical space between the upper and lower teeth where the teeth do not touch). This open bite is a dental issue most difficult to correct.

Other children will suck their thumb to the point that it appears that their top teeth are “sticking out”. This would require orthodontic treatment to correct. But the biggest issue that thumb sucking causes is changes to the bottom jaw that can affect the normal growth of the jaw which negatively affects the child’s face. This is caused by the thumb or finger preventing the lower jaw from coming forward and growing properly during thumb sucking.

The negative effects to the teeth and jaw depends on the frequency, intensity and duration of the child’s sucking habit.  

  • Frequency is the number of times the child is sucking during the day.  
  • Intensity is the amount of force that is applied to the teeth and jaw during sucking.  
  • Duration is the total amount of time spent sucking.  

The more frequent, the more intense and the longer the duration of the sucking habit, the more likely it is to affect the child’s developing oral structure and jaw.

Dr. Liliana Calkins is a Specialist in Orthodontics and Craniofacial Orthopedics at Sunrise Orthodontics Facial & Airway Development Center. As an esteemed member of the International Academy of Orofacial Myology and the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine she is trained to address pediatric facial development issues resulting from thumb sucking. Schedule a consultation for your child by visiting