In this guest blog, Jo Bates, founder of Thumbsie® Ltd discusses the potentially detrimental impact of thumb-sucking on children’s oral health. It was through her own struggles with her daughter Isabel, who tried to give up thumb-sucking eight years ago, that Jo found inspiration to launch Thumbsie®, a tool dedicated to helping children to stop thumb and finger sucking in a positive way. Thumbsie is also a proud sponsor of this year’s National Smile Month campaign which is running from 17 May to 17 June.

The largest and longest-running campaign to promote good oral health is back – and Thumbsie® are delighted to lend our support.

National Smile Month provides a fantastic opportunity to promote the importance of good oral health to people of all ages and backgrounds. As the Oral Health Foundation said last year, in an exclusive article for Thumbsie’s website, National Smile Month allows us to “engage children on the importance of a healthy mouth and how they can achieve it, even at a young age.” 

I couldn’t agree more and believe Thumbsie® has a vital role to play in that engagement with children and in promoting good oral health decisions. 

Through Thumbsie® I have seen first-hand the positive difference that proactive oral health care can make, especially when it comes to children.

How thumb-sucking can negatively affect children’s oral health

The act of thumb sucking is a natural reflex for a child and many children start when they are in the womb. Problems only typically arise when thumb sucking becomes prolonged and lasts well beyond infancy. It is then that oral health issues start to become apparent. 

According to the British Orthodontic Society, if the thumb sucking habit stops by the age of seven then teeth can often correct themselves with normal growth. However, evidence suggests that one in every eight children between the ages of seven and eleven have a prolonged digit sucking habit. If the habit continues beyond the age of seven, then the position of the adult teeth can be permanently affected, and self-correction is less likely to occur. This makes it all the more important that thumb sucking is stopped in its tracks at an early age.

As the British Orthodontic Society has shown, if thumb sucking becomes a long-term habit the impact on oral health can be severe and long-term. Problems which can arise include a crossbite, an anterior open bite, misshapen palette and even difficulty with chewing.

And it is not just the British Orthodontic Society who have acknowledged the impact of thumb sucking on oral health. There is a growing body of evidence from a wide array of sources.

Iranian experts have noted that thumb sucking can lead to significant complications such as speech impairment, irregularities in teeth, malocclusion, intra-oral ulcers.

In the US, the National Institutes of Health has said that anterior open bite and posterior cross bite are the most frequent malocclusions associated with prolonged sucking habits.

While the Mayo Clinic states that thumb sucking can affect the roof of the mouth or how the teeth line up.

And organisations including the American Dental Association and the Journal of Dentistry, Medicine and Medical Sciences have also published articles advocating the use of thumb guards.

Why good oral health is so important for young children

Research by the Oral Health Foundation has found that over half of UK adults (51%) said that they’d taken their oral health for granted when they were younger. It highlights the importance of equipping our children with the tools to maintain a healthy mouth but also taking the time to educate them on why it’s so important.

By instilling good oral health in children from a young age you can set them up with a healthy smile for life. A healthy smile is one of the best gifts an adult can give their child which not will not only save them from painful treatments down the line but could also boost their confidence and self-esteem.

Please take National Smile Month as an opportunity to assess your children’s oral health and look for areas for improvement. Through the campaign you can equip your child with a healthy smile that lasts and whilst they might not thank you now, they almost certainly will do later in life!


ORAL HEALTH FOUNDATION (2019) ‘National Smile Month Nationwide Survey 2019’, Atomik Research, May 2019, Sample 2,003.

Thumbsie® manufactures and sells child-friendly guards, which fit over a child's thumb like a glove to ensure the prevention of thumb sucking. These gloves are secured around the wrist using Velcro and come in five different sizes – plus multiple fabrics. For more information head to

For more information about our National Smile Month campaign head to