Do Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Habits Harm a Child’s Teeth?

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Do Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Habits Harm a Child’s Teeth?

Jul 05, 2022

As a parent, you are delighted when your cranky child learns to self-soothe by sucking their thumb or a pacifier. The action calms them, giving you some deserved hours of rest. But unfortunately, thumb sucking and pacifier use can lead to problems with your child’s teeth. Find out why and when the experts at Pediatric dentistry in Edmonton, AB, discourage these habits.

How Do Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Habits Impact a Child’s Teeth?

These habits are beneficial to infants and toddlers. However, continuing them long-term interferes with the kid’s mouth and teeth development. A range of oral problems develops gradually, requiring pediatric dentist services in the future. Some of these treatments, such as orthodontics, are costly and time-consuming.

Thumb sucking and pacifier habits may cause a kid’s jaw to become misaligned, affecting the child’s bite. The child’s teeth may slant forwards or backward due to the pressure of the thumb or pacifier. In addition, their mouths are pliable and may begin to mold around the shape of the thumb or pacifier. This causes the roof of the mouth to narrow, affecting teeth’ growth and development.

As a result, your child will develop speech problems. For example, they will have a lisp or find it difficult to pronounce letters such as Ts and Ds. Some kids experience tongue thrusting while speaking due to excessive sucking. In addition, oral habits also lead to tooth decay.

This happens since the child’s hands and pacifier frequently contacts bacteria. When they put them in their mouths, the bacteria enter, increasing the risk of tooth decay. Some parents encourage pacifier use by dipping it in sugary substances. This sugar leads to dental decay. How aggressively the child practices the sucking habit determines the extent of the harm.

When Should Kids Stop Using a Pacifier or Sucking Their Thumbs?

Children naturally stop thumb sucking and using a pacifier on their own when they are 6-7 months old. However, they go back to the behavior whenever in need of comfort. The habits continue until the child turns two or three years old. At this age, they develop different methods to soothe themselves. They may also be too busy playing and exploring to desire to suck.

However, some children will continue to suck their thumbs or a pacifier for longer. Such kids need help to break the sucking habit before it harms their teeth. The dentist in Edmonton recommends stopping the practice when a child turns four. It is when permanent teeth start developing. Therefore, a parent should begin discouraging the habit when the kid turns three.

How Can You Help Your Kid Stop Using a Pacifier or Sucking Their Thumb?

If your child sucks on their thumb or pacifier beyond the recommended age, you should intervene. There are various ways to help your child stop using a pacifier or sucking their thumb. They include:

  1. Using positive reinforcement such as praising or rewarding the child when they refrain from the habit. You can set goals where they should avoid sucking their thumbs or a pacifier for a certain period. When they attain the goals, acknowledge their efforts.
  2. Gently remind the child to stop the habit rather than scolding or criticizing them. Teach them why they should stop the practice. Note when your child sucks on their thumbs or uses a pacifier to catch your attention. If they are, ignore them until they break the habit.
  3. Identify what triggers the habit for your child and provide other ways to comfort them. For example, a stressed child will suck on their thumb or use a pacifier. You can hug them, discuss the cause of stress, or give them a favorite toy to hold.
  4. Taking the child to a dentist will help the child kick the habit. At the pediatric dentistry in Edmonton, AB, the dentist will talk to your child. They will point out the effects of thumb sucking and pacifier use. Then encourage them to take good care of their mouths.

Contact us at Kensington Dental Clinic. We will help you determine if your child’s thumb sucking and pacifier habits are harming their teeth. We provide pediatric dental services to rectify the effects of thumb sucking and pacifier use.

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