Thumbsucking three 3 year-old: Will she need braces?

My daughter is 3 years-old. We discourage her from sucking her thumb. A very hard task indeed! At this time she has an overbite and a gap between her teeth. If we successfully stop her from thumbsucking, will she need braces once her permanent teeth have come in?


While about 50% of 1 year-old infants suck their thumb, most children stop by the age of 4 or 5 years. Only about 15-20% of 6 year-old children continue the habit. It is my understanding that if children stop the habit before eruption of the upper permanent incisors, there is generally no effect on the alignment of the permanent teeth; therefore, orthodontics would not be necessary. On the other hand, if the habit continues through eruption of the permanent incisors, some malalignment may occur. Again, this may be self-correcting.

The exceptions to natural correction of malalignments include prolonged continuation thumbsucking past 8-10 years of age. An existing skeletal condition which would have been present with or without the thumbsucking habit can complicate the situation. Under these conditions, orthodontic correction may be warranted. A detailed evaluation of your daughter's occlusion should be completed when she is 6 years-old or after her permanent incisors have erupted. If she will require orthodontic intervention, early treatment may be utilized to achieve the best long-term results.

There are appliances which can be fabricated to aid in attempts to abate the thumbsucking habit. These appliances can also be used to help realign the teeth, if necessary. I would not recommend one of these appliances at this time, however. Your daughter is too young. This type of appliance should only be considered for children ages 7-8 years. If she shows some willingness to quit sucking her thumb now, then some encouragement and assistance from you will be helpful.

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