For many babies and toddlers sucking on a pacifier or their thumb is a natural way to self-soothe. Sucking on thumbs, fingers, pacis, and various objects may also help relax and comfort them when they’re tired and sleepy.
These habits only cause problems if your child continues for a long period of time, or uses the objects excessively. They may interfere with the normal growth of your child’s mouth, the roof of his mouth, and tooth alignment – often times called pacifier teeth. Oftentimes it all depends on how aggressively your child sucks on his thumb or pacifier.
Many children will naturally give up these habits on their own between the ages of 2 and 4. If you notice your child’s bite is changing (baby teeth are beginning to angle out or when the child bites down the teeth do not fit together) or your child is older than three, it’s time to help your child quit the habit.
Give these suggestions a try:
Praise your child when he doesn’t suck his thumb or need his pacifier.
Find other ways to soothe your child during stressful situations.
Reward your child for choosing other ways to comfort himself during difficult times.
Give your child something to do to keep his hands busy if he sucks out of boredom.
Place a bandage over your child’s thumb or a sock over your child’s hand at night.
Get help from your pediatric dentist. We can explain to your child how thumb-
sucking and pacifier use may damage his teeth. In some cases, we may recommend a mouth appliance to discourage thumb-sucking
Whatever you do, don’t punish, berate, or tease your child. These are not effective tactics and may do more harm than good. Remember, most children will kick the habit on their own and not cause permanent damage to their teeth or mouths.
If your child is a thumb sucker or pacifier user, it is especially important to take them to the dentist regularly. Make sure to ask us to check for irregularities due to thumb-sucking or pacifier use. Chances are your child will develop a healthy, happy smile without any side effects from his thumb or binky. Schedule an appointment to come see us today!