Do Thumb-Sucking and Pacifiers Affect My Child’s Teeth?


DO THUMB-SUCKING AND PACIFIERS AFFECT MY CHILD’S TEETH?

Thumb-sucking and pacifier use is as natural as smiling and sleeping for some babies. These actions may help your baby feel secure during stressful times like when he’s separated from you or in new surroundings. They me also relax and comfort him when he’s tired and sleepy.

Neither of these habits cause problems unless your child continues for a long period of time. They may interfere with the normal growth of your child’s mouth, the roof of his mouth, and tooth alignment. Usually 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 (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.
  • Ask an older child for his input on ways to stop.
  • Place a bandage over your child’s thumb or a sock over your child’s hand at night.
  • Get help from your pediatric dentist. He can explain to your child how thumb-
    sucking and pacifier use may damage his teeth. In some cases, your child’s
    dentist may recommend a mouth appliance to discourage thumb-sucking
    behavior.

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.

Take your child to the dentist regularly and ask him 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.

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