Whether you’re a new parent or this is your second or third young child, you know that sleepless nights and constant crying can take their toll on your mental and physical well-being. Sometimes, it’s a relief when your infant quiets down after discovering how soothing his thumb can be, or if your baby takes to the new pacifier you just bought him so well that it’s now constantly in his mouth, and you can finally hear yourself think. We’ve all been there, and we get it. As long as you wean your child from this practice before they get older, the use of pacifiers and thumb sucking is harmless in the short term. The problem, however, is that it can present dental problems in the long run. 

You’ll go to any lengths as a parent to support your child’s healthy growth and development. This article will explain when and how to break your child’s habit of thumb-sucking or use of pacifiers in order to protect their oral health.

Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking

Throughout early life, it’s very typical for kids to suck their thumbs or pacifiers. Within two hours of birth, 90% of newborns start sucking their thumbs or fingers. Many kids naturally outgrow this practice as they become older, however, some kids may find it difficult to break the habit.

Both thumb-sucking and using a pacifier can harm your child’s teeth. But it’s simpler to stop using a pacifier than to stop sucking your thumb. You cannot take away your child’s thumbs and fingers like a binky since they are always available to them.

The frequency and intensity of suction affect how thumb and pacifier use affect teeth. 

Although you have little control over how firmly your child sucks on their thumb or pacifier, keeping an eye on it is crucial as the teeth are shifted out of position as a result of the excessive power used. Transitioning away from thumb-sucking or pacifier use earlier may be beneficial for kids with stronger suction.

Should I Prohibit Thumb-Sucking And/Or Pacifiers?

You can allow your young child to suck on their thumb or pacifier. Only when it persists past a certain age does it become damaging. Most kids between the ages of 2 and 4 progressively stop sucking their thumbs or pacifiers. However, some children will require parental assistance to break this habit.

When should children stop sucking their thumbs? If a child hasn’t stopped sucking their thumb by age 4, parents should start restricting their use of pacifiers and should discourage it. When your child’s adult teeth begin to erupt, using a pacifier or sucking on their thumb causes irreversible harm. At age 6, children begin losing their primary teeth and developing their permanent teeth, thus, it’s imperative to stop thumb or pacifier use at this time.

Children naturally suck their thumbs as a reflex when they are young. Older children thumb-suck for comfort and stress relief. They need to find alternative methods of self-soothing when it’s time to stop. Your child can break this habit with the least amount of stress and discomfort by using the right techniques. The following tips can help make this process easier on you as well as your child:

  • Show positivity: Do not discipline your child for sucking their thumb or using a pacifier. Instead, commend them and provide them incentives for not doing it.
  • Help them understand: Your child may become confused or unhappy if you tell them to stop sucking their thumb or using a pacifier. Make sure they understand the benefits of stopping and the consequences for their teeth if they don’t. When a child’s dentist explains why they should quit, some kids respond more favorably.
  • Patience: It will take some time to break your child from the habit of sucking their thumbs or pacifiers. Limiting the amount of time they can suck on their thumb or using a pacifier will help you wean them off gradually.
  • Offer a replacement: Your child can get the same level of comfort from a soft blanket or stuffed animal as they would from sucking their thumb or using a pacifier. They’ll need some time to get used to it, but eventually, they’ll figure out how to cope without damaging their teeth.

Effects of Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking on Dental Health

Thumb sucking or pacifier use could eventually lead to your child’s teeth developing incorrectly. The jaw and mouth’s form can be affected by the suction and presence of a foreign item, such as a thumb or binky, which can also cause the teeth to shift. Here are some potential problems brought on by using a pacifier or thumb-sucking:

  • Crooked teeth: Children that routinely suck their thumbs or pacifiers are always chewing on something foreign. Their teeth subsequently grow around this object, leading to malocclusion, or crooked teeth. An open bite frequently results from the top row of teeth being pushed up and out while the bottom row is forced inward. Even when their mouth is closed, kids with open bites have a noticeable space between their top and bottom teeth.
  • Overbites: An overbite develops when the top front teeth are pushed out significantly more than the bottom ones, giving the impression of “bucked teeth.” Children who have malocclusion may experience self-consciousness and possibly have difficulty eating or speaking.
  • Deformed jaw: The jaw and surrounding tissues develop improperly as a result of the pressure from thumb sucking or pacifier use. Furthermore, the jaw cannot rest properly when there is a foreign item present. If the situation is severe enough, your child’s facial structure and look may alter, necessitating substantial medical care.
  • Speech: Your child’s capacity for speech is influenced by the position of their teeth, jaw, and surrounding tissues. Long-term thumb sucking or pacifier use might misalign the jaw, leading to lisps and speech difficulties. Children who frequently have a thumb or binky in their mouth are also unable to practice formative language skills.

Please call us at 801-948-8880 and book an appointment with us for your child today!