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Thumb Sucking or Using a Pacifier Hurt My Child’s Teeth?

Thumb sucking and pacifier use can be comforting and soothing to infants and toddlers, but they can also have long-term effects on your little one’s teeth. While most children outgrow these habits, it’s important to be aware of potential oral health risks. Your trusted team at Jet Set Smiles Pediatric Dentistry is here to provide you with information and support to lay the foundation for a lifetime of healthy smiles. 

Understanding Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Use

Thumb sucking and pacifier use are common among young children. They provide a sense of comfort and a means to self-soothe. Most children naturally stop these oral habits between the ages of two and four with no permanent harm to their teeth and jaws. 

If thumb sucking and pacifier use continue for an extended period, they may result in a host of oral health problems. We highly recommend tapering off these habits at a young age. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends reducing thumb sucking and pacifier use by 18 months of age.

What Are the Oral Health Risks of Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Use?

Prolonged thumb sucking and pacifier use can interfere with your child’s oral health development. The extent of harm will depend on how aggressively your child sucks on the thumb or pacifier. The pressure from sucking can cause changes to the roof of the mouth. It can also push the teeth out of position and cause changes in your child’s bite and the shape of the mouth, often leading to misaligned teeth, an overbite, or an open bite. These problems can lead to speech, eating, and sometimes even breathing difficulties. 

Breaking Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Habits

While most kids give up thumb and pacifier sucking on their own, some may need a little help. The most important thing is to maintain a positive attitude and keep in mind that encouragement goes a long way. Take the time to celebrate every milestone and moment of success. Never resort to punishment or scolding, which may backfire. 

Weaning your child off a pacifier or thumb sucking starts from a young age. Keep the pacifier away when you feel your baby does not need self-soothing. Offer other distractions, such as teething rings, mobiles, or rattles. When your child is a toddler, choose a day to celebrate being a “big kid” and pack away all the pacifiers. Offer another comfort item, such as a stuffed animal or lovey in their place. When it comes to thumb sucking, parents may find it helpful to place a bandaid on the thumb during the day and mittens over the hands during sleep. 

Keep in mind that children suck on their thumbs or pacifiers when they are anxious, insecure, or in need of comfort. Focus on the causes of anxiety and help your child find other ways to self-soothe when tired or stressed. Remember, rewards go a long way. Give your child a sticker, a small toy, or a favorite treat to celebrate every success!

Compassionate Pediatric Dental Care Near Me in Phoenix, AZ

If you need more tips, talk to your trusted team at Jet Set Smiles Pediatric Dentistry. We may recommend an oral appliance or behavioral therapy. We will help you find solutions to break unwanted oral habits to prevent long-term dental complications. We are all about keeping your child’s smile healthy and sound. Call us at 480-284-5076 to schedule your appointment today.

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