Harms of Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Habits for Your Child’s Teeth

Some children develop habits as they go through their various growth stages. As a parent, it’s important to know what is considered normal, and what might be excessive or cause long term damage. The most common habit that children develop is thumb/finger sucking or using a pacifier.

The action of sucking is a natural reflex for infants, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), and it is even seen in the womb while the baby is developing. This is normal and even relaxing for them to use their thumb to feel secure, especially in times of stress and when parents aren’t around. It can also help some fall asleep when it’s naptime or in the evening.

When Habits Become a Problem

As your child’s mouth grows and teeth come in, continued thumb sucking can become a problem and cause damage to their developing jaw and misalignment of permanent teeth. This is less of an issue with children that are not aggressive with these actions, but kids that are very active and make a popping sound when they take their thumb out of their mouth, might be creating long term problems.

Pacifiers can cause the same type of damage, but this habit is often easier to break for many children. Providing your infant with a pacifier may help the child not even start thumb sucking. Both thumb sucking and pacifier use should begin to gradually disappear between ages two and four, according to the ADA. If it doesn’t, the habit should be discouraged around age four. Allowing it to continue beyond this will begin to cause permanent changes to the mouth and teeth.

There are various ways to help your child to stop without causing further problems:

  • Offer praise when your child is not sucking their thumb or using the pacifier. Providing rewards can also reinforce the idea to break the habit.
  • Work on making your child feel secure or figure out what is causing a feeling of insecurity, as this is often the reason for the habit to continue.
  • Your family dentist can also chime in and explain to your child what can happen to their teeth if they don’t stop, and positive reasons to stop. They may also be able to offer you additional advice for the day-to-day.

Ensure Your Child’s Oral Health

As a concerned parent, it might be hard to watch your child do damage to their growing mouth and new teeth. But there are many strategies you can employ to help work this problem out, and make your child feel secure and happy as they continue exploring their world.

Resource: Dental Care

Cary, NC Family Dentist, Alliance Dentistry