Thumb Sucking and Pacifiers: How To Break the Habit
Thumb sucking is not uncommon for infants. In fact, about 90% of newborns display various forms of this habit just two hours after birth. Using a pacifier is also very common and generally harmless for babies.
But at what age do these practices become troublesome?
Are they bad for dental care?
Do they have long-term effects?
We aim to answer these questions. Hint: They won’t do older kids any favors.
Ultimately, we want to help your child break the habit. Read on to discover just how to do it.
Why Do Infants Start Thumb Sucking or Using a Pacifier?
It may come as a shock to you, but babies develop natural sucking reflexes — sometimes even before birth. For this reason, thumb sucking and using a pacifier are habits easily developed. Below are some of the reasons why they do it.
- Eating necessity: Newborn babies eat by sucking. Hooray if your child has already figured it out!
- Calming mechanism: Sometimes, even newly-fed babies still need to suck more. Their non-nutritive sucking soothes them.
- Availability: There’s another reason why babies suck their little thumbs. They’re always right within reach!
What Does Thumb Sucking or Using a Pacifier Do to Mouth and Teeth Formation?
Thumb sucking and pacifier sucking are not ideal for children’s teeth. A pediatric dentist can further explain some of the outcomes, like:
- Jaw misalignment: Pacifiers come in all shapes and forms, some of which are unnaturally large for a child’s mouth. These scenarios push teeth out of alignment since the pressure from the cheek, lips, and tongue can create an open bite or posterior crossbite.
- Slanting teeth: Pressure from a prolonged sucking habit pushes teeth out of alignment. The front teeth may appear flared out. Fortunately, a children’s dentist can help address this symptom.
How Long Can a Child Safely Thumb Suck or Use a Pacifier?
Don’t be alarmed if a newborn or infant enjoys thumb sucking or using a pacifier. After all, these habits are natural coping mechanisms for them.
The natural sucking urge typically drops when a child turns six months. However, some kids might still find comfort in these habits well past this age.
As a gauge, many professionals and even the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) agree that thumb sucking and pacifier use should be okay until about age three. After this timeframe, it’s best to help kids beat these habits.
How To Break the Habit
Remember, every child is different. There’s really no one-size-fits-all solution in helping them say goodbye to thumb sucking or pacifiers. However, here are some of the most popular methods parents and guardians use:
- Ignore them: More often than not, children will naturally stop sucking on their thumbs and pacifiers. There’s no need to use harsh words or punishments to get rid of these habits.
- Praise and reward: When your child doesn’t suck on their thumbs or pacifiers, applaud them for it. Treats like hugs, kisses, and high-fives are also most welcome.
- Keep them busy: Sometimes, children use sucking to deal with boredom. When this happens, distract them with fun activities.
How Your Pediatric Dentist Can Help
Apart from family members, friends, and other loved ones, one more person can help you talk to your kids about thumb sucking and pacifiers: your children’s dentist. Regular visits can make all the difference in your efforts.
Reliable dental specialists can teach you and your child how to address changes to the teeth and jaw often associated with these habits. They are the ideal partner in such endeavors because they can give you tips and tricks for stopping the behaviors. Ultimately, the goal is to avoid expensive treatments in the future.
Usually, these strategies work well on their own. However, if necessary, a pediatric dentist can use an oral appliance to break these practices within a couple of months.
Book an Appointment With Bay Area Kids Dentist Today
If your child still sucks on their thumbs and pacifiers past age three, it’s time to double your efforts to help them beat such habits. After all, they may lead to dental problems like jaw misalignment and slanting teeth. If left untreated, these habits may require costly treatments.
Let the experts at Bay Area Kids Dentist help. All our dentists are board certified by the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry (ABPD). We know how to make dental visits comfortable and fun for kids of all ages. Plus, our dental assistants have a commitment to excellence and a warm demeanor.
We would like to help you and your child beat thumb sucking and pacifiers for good! Book an appointment with one of our super dentists now.