Sucking Habits: Breaking the Habit and Orthodontic Treatment

By Dr. Tarek O. Zaki, D.D.S.

Sucking habits sucking thumb




Many children have sucking habits such as sucking their thumb, fingers or objects, but this can lead to tooth alignment problems later and may require orthodontic treatment.

At what age should you help your child curb the habit and how can you distract them from sucking?




Sucking Habits: Breaking the Habit and Orthodontic Treatment


It is not unusual to see infants and children sucking a thumb or a finger.  Some may suck on their tongues or on a toy or blanket. This may be considered normal if it occurs once in a while in children up to age 5 or 6.  Problems arise when it occurs all the time and/or lingers beyond age 6.

Our teeth and jaws change their positions and shape respectively in response to gentle, continuous pressure.  Sucking a finger will cause the top and bottom front teeth to lean forward and therefore stick out. Thumb sucking, on the other hand, will move the top front teeth forward and the bottom front teeth backward and downward. It can also alter the relationship between both jaws and cause them to grow abnormally.Sucking on fingers orthondontics

Treatment may involve reasoning with and motivating our patients, suggesting ways to help them stop the habit, e.g., spicy sauce on the finger or covering the hand with a sock at night. A last resort would be the use of habit-breaking appliances which make it uncomfortable to have a finger in the mouth.

Children derive pleasure and comfort from such habits. We should therefore be very gentle in our approach. They need to understand that we are helping them help themselves. It can also be helpful at this stage to substitute a new toy, reading, or some other activity that will enhance one-on-one parent-child interaction.


Zaki Orthodontics in Virginia Beach Virginia is the practice of Dr. Tarek O. Zaki, D.D.S. He is an experienced orthodontist providing braces, Invisalign® and other orthodontic services to Virginia Beach and the surrounding cities in Hampton Roads, including Norfolk, Chesapeake, Suffolk and Portsmouth Virginia. Dr. Zaki offers free, comprehensive, 2nd opinion examinations. For a full list of Zaki Orthodontics’ treatments and services click here. Click here to request an appointment online or call for a consultation. 757-416-1100


Photo courtesy of by Ambro (thumb sucking) and photostock (finger sucking)