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Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking: What You Should Know

If your child sucks on a pacifier or their thumb, then you may be concerned about how this habit could affect their tooth development. In some cases, this habit can be harmful. However, even if your child engages in this habit, their teeth can still come in perfectly fine. Here are some things to know about thumb and pacifier use, how it affects your child’s teeth, and how to stop the habit.

Why Do Children Suck on Thumbs and Pacifiers?

The sucking reflex is natural and begins even before your child is born. This reflex is important for nursing and also provides comfort to infants and very young children. Many children like to suck their thumbs or pacifiers to feel less nervous and more secure. Some engage in this habit to relieve anxiety in uncertain situations. Other children use it when they are tired and want to fall asleep. Some children may not even realize they do it.

How Does This Habit Affect Teeth?

Gentle, passive thumb sucking and pacifier use are generally not harmful to children under two years old. The habit will not likely cause any major tooth-development problem before their permanent teeth come in. However, if your child actively engages in the habit, then they could damage their baby teeth. If it continues, then their permanent teeth will also be affected. A sign your child is actively or aggressively engaged in the habit is if you hear a pop when they pull their thumb or pacifier out of their mouth.

An aggressive thumb or pacifier habit, or even a gentle one that goes on for too long, can cause changes to the roof of the mouth and the shape of the jaw. If the habit continues after permanent teeth develop, then your child’s front teeth could bow or protrude abnormally. Your child could also suffer from bite problems.

What Are Some Ways to Stop This Habit?

The good news is most children stop this habit on their own without much help before permanent teeth erupt. If your child continues until school age, then their peerpressure is often effective. Gentle tactics, like positive rewards and reminders, can also help a child who wants to stop.

Harsh punishments may be counter-productive and prolong the habit. If the problem is anxiety, find out what the triggers are and replace the habit with other comfort tools.

How Can a Dentist Help?

Your dentist will perform a thorough exam to ensure that your child’s baby teeth and jaw develop normally. He or she can take measures to correct problems before they start. If your child is older, then your dentist can talk to him or her about the habit and convince them to stop.

Thumb and pacifier sucking is a natural habit that has some benefits. However, you should not let it continue too long, or it could affect your child’s teeth. Your child should have their first visit to the dentist by the time they are one year old, or 6 months after their first tooth erupts.

Be sure to mention your concerns about this habit to the dentist at that time. The dentist can keep track of your child’s tooth development to catch problems early.

If you need a family dentist, then Kids Choice/All About Kids Dental can help. Call us for your child’s dental needs whether you have an infant or an older child. We have all the latest equipment to examine and diagnose any potential dental issues. We also strive to make your child as comfortable as possible. We look forward to meeting with you and your child and discussing all your dental needs.

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