Saying Goodbye to Good Friends—Thumb and Pacifier Sucking

Thumb and Pacifier Sucking

At Little Heroes Pediatric Dentistry, we know how much little ones love their thumbs and pacifiers. Helping your little hero to let go of that binky is probably going to lead to a couple of tantrums and restless nights, but don’t worry, it’s definitely doable and we’re here to help.

As a parent, we understand that you might be a bit concerned with that thumb sucking habit or pacifier use, but keep in mind—sucking is an infant’s natural reflex. Did you know that your toddler started sucking on their thumbs while they were actually still in the womb? This behavior helps young children to feel safe, happy, and helps them to feel secure as they learn about the world around them.

However, prolonged thumb sucking or pacifier use can indeed cause problems with the alignment of the teeth and the mouth as your child grows. At Little Heroes Pediatric Dentistry, parents usually ask us:

When does thumb sucking and pacifier use become a problem?

For starters, children who passively suck experience less dental problems than those who vigorously suck their thumbs or pacifiers. You can tell if your little one is an active thumb sucker if you hear a relatively loud popping sound when they take their thumb out of their mouth.

This aggressive suction, whether through thumb sucking or pacifier use, can lead to issues with your child’s primary teeth. Some of the long-term dental complications that can arise from prolonged thumb sucking and pacifier use include:

  • Bottom teeth leaning inward
  • Top teeth slanting outward or inward
  • Misalignment of jaw

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry states that the majority of children will stop using a pacifier or stop sucking their thumb between the ages of two and four years old. If your child stops before his or her permanent front teeth come in, then there’s a good chance their bite will correct itself.

However, if they continue to use a pacifier or thumb suck beyond this point, the bite may not be able to correct itself and orthodontic treatment may be needed to realign the teeth.

How can I help my little one break their thumb sucking and pacifier habit?

Remember that most children will stop this habit out of their own free will. This behavior begins to lessen as they spend more time awake and around other children their age, which may act as a social pressure to stop.

However, excessive pressure will do more harm than good. Neither is teasing, harsh words, or punishment an effective way to help your child stop this habit. Instead, remember to be patient, and use the following tips:

  • Slowly reducing the amount of time your child uses their pacifier can be an effective strategy.
  • Praise and rewards can help the process. Star charts and gentle reminders during the day can keep your little hero excited about their progress.
  • If the sucking seems like a sign of boredom, keep their little hands busy with toys and fun.
  • There are over-the-counter creams that can be placed on a child’s thumb to give it an icky taste they definitely won’t want to suck on.
  • Consider bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on their hands overnight.
  • Ask your dentist to talk to your child about why it is a good idea to stop sucking his or her thumb and have them explain what can happen they don’t stop.
  • If you see changes in your child’s mouth and the way their teeth are lining up, talk to your pediatric dentist. They can recommended devices that will prevent this behavior.

Regardless of what method you use, make sure to explain to your child the reason why you are trying to help them stop thumb sucking or pacifier use.

Let Little Heroes Pediatric Dentistry be your partner in saying goodbye to their binky and thumb.

Your baby’s dental health is your top priority and ours too. We understand you need a pediatric dentist you can trust to care for your child’s teeth and well-being. We aim to do just that. Little Heroes Dentistry offers dental and orthodontic treatment options for every step of your little hero’s life at three convenient locations throughout South Texas.

Visit us today in Laredo, Mission, or San Juan, and find out why Little Heroes Pediatric Dentistry is the number one dentistry for children throughout the Rio Grande Valley.


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