Pediatric Dentistry Tips: Thumb and Pacifier Habits

Pretty much every child sucks on a thumb or pacifier when they are young. Many parents and soon to be parents already know that prolonged thumb and pacifier sucking is bad for their child’s teeth. Most, though, may not know why. Pediatric dentists offer reasons why infants and young children suck on thumbs and pacifiers. They also offer information on how long is an acceptable period to perform the habit and how to wean a child off the habit.

Pediatric Dentists Offer Answers for Why Children Suck on Objects

There are a few reasons for this habit, which is ingrained from birth.

At the surface level, it is a necessary trait in order to feed. A newborn baby must have an innate need to suck on something. This ability helps them receive nourishment from a breast or bottle.

This knowledge also creates a sense of security for the child. There’s no safer place to them than a mother’s arms, particularly at feeding time. They feel completely safe and secure, and as a result, pacifier or thumb sucking provides a sense of safety while away from mother.

Sucking on other objects, such as toys, is also a method of exploring the world around them. The true nature of how they learn through this method may remain a mystery. It is certainly an exploration and comprehension technique for the child, though.

How Long Do Children Typically Suck on Pacifiers or Thumbs?

Most children will stop sucking on objects of their own accord between the ages of two and four.

Pediatric dentists will monitor the development of teeth and if a child’s thumb sucking continues beyond their third birthday, they may start advocating for an intervention.

Prolonged thumb or pacifier sucking can cause the upper teeth at the front of the mouth to arch upward, toward the lip.

This leads to an irregular bite and a large gap between the upper and lower arrays, even when the mouth is closed.

How Can Parents Help their Child Stop Thumb and Pacifier Sucking?

The American Association of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents support their child in efforts to stop thumb and pacifier sucking.

In general, pacifiers habits are easier to break than thumb or finger habits. However, all of them lead to the same result and affect teeth the same way.

Once a child is old enough to understand the effects of thumb or pacifier sucking, pediatric dentists in Houston can show them what will happen if they continue. Parents can support and encourage the child to stop sucking on things while at home.

If the habit remains difficult to break, a mouth appliance may be necessary.

Specially designed appliances make it impossible for the child to suck on a thumb or pacifier. With enough time, the habit will break entirely.