Pacifiers, Thumbsucking, and Baby Teeth

Like any good parent, you may be a bit worried about your child’s thumsucking or pacifier use. You’ve probably heard about all the the potential damage that overuse of the pacifier or thumbsucking can cause. What’s important to remember is that sucking is a natural reflex and that our Little Heroes begin to perform this action while still in the womb. Infants and toddlers usually suck on their thumbs or pacifiers for a number of reasons. It makes them feel secure during “stressful” times, like separation from their parents while in an unfamiliar environment. Thumbsucking and pacifier use also calms and relaxes them, which can help to induce sleep. Research completed by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry shows that most children will stop using a pacifier before four years old. Thumbsucking, however, can be a hard habit to break since you can’t just throw away a thumb like you can a pacifier. Most #Little #Heroes will stop using a pacifier before 4 years old #AAPD #RGV #children#healthy #smiles – click to tweet Aggressive thumbsucking can lead to dental complications if children continue to do so after the age of five (especially for those are continue to use a pacifier or thumb after permanent teeth begin to emerge). Our sidekicks at Little Heroes Dentistry want to ensure that you are able to protect your little one from any permanent damage by providing you a bit of information about thumbsucking, pacifiers, and children’s teeth.

How can thumbsucking or pacifier use affect my child’s teeth?

While in most most cases, children will naturally stop using their pacifier or sucking their thumb, it’s vital for parents to keep an eye out for prolonged use that can lead to oral damage. While it can be difficult for a parent to assess the situation, your general dentist should be able to provide you insight about the associated risks of extended thumbsucking and pacifier use, including:

Tooth decay

Unfortunately, many parents dip pacifiers in sugar substances like honey to help soothe infants. This can lead to oral bacteria that destroys tooth enamel, and pediatric tooth decay, as well as cavities.

Mouth sores

Ulcers and sores can develop in the mouth when a child is aggressively sucking on their pacifier or thumb. Aggressive sucking is noticeable because of popping sounds made when the child uses the sucking device.

Slanting teeth

Thumb and pacifier sucking can cause growing teeth to slant or protrude. This can ultimately lead to need for orthodontic treatment as the ages.

Mouth narrowing

Constant and extended thumb and pacifier use can cause the roof of the mouth to narrow because of pliability during childhood. This can lead to issues with developing teeth.

Jaw misalignment

Over extended use of pacifiers and thumbsucking can guide the developing jaws out of alignment. #Thumb #sucking and #pacifiers can lead to #tooth #decay, slanting teeth, and jaw misalignment Click To Tweet

What can I do to encourage my kid to stop sucking on their thumb or pacifier?

Again, thumb sucking and pacifier use is a norm, but use past the age of five can have some consequences if you aren’t careful. Getting your child to stop this practice should mean lots of encouragement and gentle intervention rather than scolding. Consider these useful suggestions to help your child wean themselves off their pacifier and thumb sucking:

  • Offer your child praise when they DO NOT suck on their thumb or pacifier.
  • Because children will suck on their thumb when nervous or insecure, help to understand their cause of anxiety, and comfort them.
  • Implement a reward system (like stickers) when your child avoids thumb sucking during a stressful moment.
  • Disallow pacifier use at night and use mittens to inhibit thumb sucking.
  • Ask your pediatric dentist at Little Heroes to also help encourage your child to stop sucking on a pacifier or their thumb. Sometimes your child will listen more when the message is delivered by another adult.

Contact Little Heroes Pediatric Dentistry today for more guidance and tips on how to help break the habits of pacifier use and thumbsucking.

Remember that helping your little one break this habit is going to require loves of love, patients, and some time. Little Heroes Pediatric Dentistry can help by making sure your child’s oral health care is up to par. Our offices in Laredo, Mission, and San Juan officer the best in pediatric, orthodontic, general, and cosmetic dental care. Come by our offices today and let’s make sure your child always has a perfect smile!


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