Most children have the natural tendency to soothe themselves by either thumb-sucking or pacifier use. It’s a natural reflex, and a habit that, as the child grows older, can be very difficult to overcome. But thumb-sucking or pacifier use has an adverse effect on a child’s teeth. The habit can inhibit the natural growth of teeth and gum tissue. As a child’s mouth develops, the pressure from either the pacifier or the thumb causes the mouth to form unnaturally: teeth could press forward from being sucked continuously, as well as the gum tissue on the roof of the mouth; even the bridge in the roof of the mouth can both lengthen and narrow. The amount of damage that can occur is directly related to the intensity at which a child sucks his or her thumb. A child who sucks his or her thumb aggressively is more likely to develop problems with their baby teeth.

As a rule, children often quit thumb-sucking and pacifier use between the ages of two and four—of course there are many exceptions to this. But, a child should be taught other ways to soothe themselves so that any damage caused from thumb or pacifier sucking is minimal. As a child’s adult teeth come into his or her mouth, it’s definitely the time, if not past the time, to help them break the habit.

Breaking the habit

There are many ways to encourage your child to discontinue using pacifier or a thumb. Remember to praise your child for not using his or her pacifier or thumb. Let them know that you’re proud of them. Oftentimes, thumb-sucking and pacifier use in older children is a result of the child trying to soothe his or her emotions, stresses, etc. Comfort your child, attempt to correct the behaviors, and again use praise to show that not using the pacifier and not sucking on the thumb is the absolutely best thing the child could do. If the child is older, consider allowing him or her to be a part of the decision as to how to quit using a pacifier or sucking on their thumb.

If you are concerned about the affect pacifier or thumb sucking has had on your child’s teeth, consult with your dentist as to what would work best for your child.

If you have any questions about Pediatric Dental Care, please contact Premier Dental today.